In there is an outdoor meeting room in Manhattan Financial Area, a very pregnant particle physicist, Elina Berglund, aged 35, explains how she has inadvertently gone to scientific front line management.
In spring 2012, the Swedish scientist was working in Geneva in Cern, where he was part of the team looking for a Higgs boson particle (the perception would win a Nobel prize later on). ). Then, he began searching for a natural alternative to hormonal contraception.
Referring to the three small scars on her upper arm of the place where her implant sat for 10 years, Berglund remembers not wanting another. “I thought, 'OK, I want to have children in a few years, so what can I do to bridge this gap?' I felt maybe she was a good time to let my body go back to fear again and get back to normal before I wanted to conceive. ”
To avoid the implant while still controlling her fertility, she built an algorithm that analyzed her lowest rest temperature every day to determine if she could become pregnant (women's basic body temperature rises after ovulation). Soon, her colleagues wanted to have a go.
While on their honeymoon, her husband, Raoul Scherwitzl, who is also a physicist, suggested that the algorithm should be turned into an app. The appeal quickly saw: “I could see that so many women would benefit from it.” Today, their app, Natural Cycles, has over a million registered users worldwide, with an investment of 37.5m 95 employees worldwide. . This is the first app to be certified as a contraceptive method in Europe and cleared by the FDA to be marketed as a birth control in the United States, where it officially launched this March for $ 9.99 t month.
After nine months pregnant with her second child, Berglund says that the app has worked successfully for her as a contraceptive method and when she became pregnant. “I am a person who loves planning and doing the best. I would like to say exactly what month I want to get pregnant. ”
As a contraceptive, the app claims to be 93% effective with “typical use” and 98% effective with “perfect use”. This compares with a typical 85% and 98% perfect for condoms, or 91% typical and 99% perfect for the pill, according to Planned Existence figures.
But last year, the effectiveness of Natural Cycles came under public scrutiny.
In January 2018, the Swedish Medical Products Agency (MPA) carried out a well-publicized inquiry after Södersjukhuset in Stockholm reported that 37 Natural Cycles users had had abortions in a four-month period. The MPA later confirmed that the pregnancy was actually in line with the product failure rate, but asked the company to “explain the risk of unnecessary pregnancy” in the instructions and the app.
In retrospect, Berglund says “it is not so strange that they have raised this alarm because it is 37 pregnancies out of 668 and of course if there is a new product… However, what was a little strange it was that they also went out to press saying that she also found that their decision to include typical usage failures was unusual.
In August, the Advertising Standards Authority in Britain awarded the 2017 Facebook advert for Natural Cycles containing the “highly accurate” and “clinical testing” phrases misleading. This, Berglund admitted, was a mistake: “It doesn't make sense to talk about accuracy when contraception, you're talking about effectiveness, so I think they're absolutely right about that . ”
When I ask how she treats unwanted pregnancy in person, she seems to be really addicted. “This really is a disadvantage of working with contraception, which will never succeed to 100%, so these failure rates will always be. And these 37 women are not the first time I deal with unwanted pregnancy by Natural Cycles. We tried to follow up with our users on a monthly basis and my… ”she's breathing deep into us.
By breathing out, we continue: “It's always very difficult. You want to do something good and then you have a woman contacting you because she has failed her, it's very difficult. ”
Users are encouraged to check their temperature at least five days a week as soon as they wake up and record their information in the app to find out if they are on a “green” (no fertile) or “red” (fertile) day. It is also “pregnancy planning”.
Berglund says the most common reason for unwanted pregnancy is that people do not use security on red days. If people use it perfectly and only on green days, it says that the failure rate would be 0.5% (the rate of effectiveness is “perfect use” of 98%). consider condom failure). The reason why it's not 100% effective, it's explained, is because the body sometimes suddenly weakens, or there is a temperature rise. n looks like ovulation but not.
“My dream is that if we could have a chip in the body that measures every hormone directly,” he said, a bit optimistic. Although virtually possible at academic level, it explains, it is not about to happen from a consumer perspective.
For now, however, its focus is on the US, where it says they intend to learn from their experiences in Europe. Berglund relocated to Stockholm to New York in September. So far, the response has been positive – from the medical community and users. But of course, the unique politics of the birth control arena in the US.
Women's healthcare in America is a key political playground for Trump administration. He has recently announced that it will stop organizations referring people to abortions from government funding and has sought to restrict access to contraception.
“As a European scientist, of course, I am more willing to give the girls as much choice as possible and let them choose. I think that's more to do, ”says Berglund, who describes himself as an option.
But with Natural Cycles already working with Title X – the government's scheme to fund reproductive healthcare for low-income Americans – in order to give free access to disadvantaged women in New Hampshire, it seems that Berglund may or may not t to politics is inevitable.
How would she feel if her app was used by the Trump administration to expel women by restricting access to other birth control methods? “Well, I haven't seen that happen again. If we do, of course, we will fight that. But not yet. ”The company doesn't say it shares personal data.
Berglund says that many pharmaceutical companies are cutting funding for women's health. She hopes that the thriving technology industry (predicted to be worth $ 50bn by 2025) will be able to step into filling with more products by and for women.
And what about birth control solutions for men? Berglund plans to keep to women's health for the time being, but we hope to see more male choices in the future. Men, he said, have resisted resistance to the types of side effects that women experience of hormonal contraception in studies, which do not encourage research.
“I think that's very sad because, you know… why do we have to deal with it?” T
Having worked in two typically male-dominated industries, physics and technology, Berglund says she has been fortunate to work among women (Natural Cycles staff are 65% female and 35% male.) T n thought that making those subjects more attractive to women in some circumstances could be as simple as redrawing. Women, he says, are often more interested in programs as a means of ending, while men are more interested in the technology itself.
Her four-year-old daughter of Scotland is already showing an interest in nature and the universe. When she is five, Berglund says she could start teaching her about coding.