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Birth control apps — also known as cycle tracking apps, menstrual cycle tracking apps, family planning apps, and fertility apps — are designed for people who menstruate who want to be on top of their cycle and fertility.
As you might guess, birth control apps are apps you can download onto your smartphone or smart device (fancy!). But exactly what they do varies from app to app.
More on the different types of birth control apps, as well as the best birth control apps you can download, below.
The wonderful world of birth control apps is vast and wide. So, no matter what you’re looking for, odds are there’s an app that can deliver.
Some birth control apps store and analyze information such as:
- cycle length
- heart rate
- basal body temperature
- cervical fluid consistency
- cervical position
- PMS symptoms
The point? To help you predict when you are the most (or least!) likely to get pregnant.
Indeed, some people use these birth control apps as a natural, nonhormonal alternative to birth control to help them avoid unwanted pregnancy, while others use them to increase the odds of getting pregnant.
Other birth control apps are far simpler.
For example, one subclass of birth control apps are designed to remind you to take your oral contraceptive, while another subclass is designed to help you request prescription refills.
It depends on what exactly you’re looking for the app to be effective at executing, as well as the app.
That said, if you’re asking this, you may want to know whether a birth control app can help decrease your risk of pregnancy.
The answer is yes — but there’s a catch.
Using birth control apps as a natural birth control method is known as family awareness method (FAM).
Broadly speaking, FAM is a way to track your period, so that you can avoid intercourse without a condom during ovulation, which is the time of the month when you are at the highest chance of getting pregnant.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, FAM is only about 76 percent effective at reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancy with typical use. For a sense of comparison, with typical use, external condoms are 82 percent effective, and the birth control pill is 91 percent effective.
The reason birth control apps (and other fertility awareness methods) aren’t more effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy? A combination of user error and variance in menstrual cycle.
As a general rule, this method will be most effective for people with regular periods, but it will likely be ineffective for those who have irregular periods.
If you’re trying to avoid getting pregnant, you’ll want to use an app and another form of birth control, such as external or internal condoms.
First, you’ll have to download the app onto your device.
Most apps are available for both Androids and iPhones, so you’ll want to head to whatever app store you normally shop at.
Some apps are free, but many are not. The apps that are not free will require you to enter your payment information, and will charge you every month that the app remains on your device.
Next, you have to use it! What that looks like will vary from app to app.
Classic birth control apps that are designed to help you reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy might include any of the following:
- taking and tracking your basal temperature every morning
- logging your period symptoms
- checking and charting your cervical fluid
Birth control apps designed to make it easier for you to get your prescription birth control filled will require totally different things. For example, they might have you:
- enter your insurance information
- fill out a medical chart
- share your address
Curious what birth control app is right for you? We make it easy below.
How we chose the best birth control apps
To parse out the good birth control apps from the not-so-good ones, we evaluated user feedback, cost, ease of use, purpose, and more.
Then, we broke them down into categories so you can download the best option for your life.
Best overall: Natural Cycles
- Price: $89/year
- For: People who want to avoid pregnancy, people trying to get pregnant
In 2018, under what’s called the “
Receiving clearance is different than approval, in that clearance is generally granted to medical devices that:
- are deemed a low or moderate risk to consumers
- can demonstrate “substantial equivalence” to other existing, similar devices (in this case, other birth control apps)
This app works by having users track their basal body temperature every single morning using the thermometer that comes with a yearly subscription. (People on a monthly subscription can buy the thermometer separately.)
Natural Cycles also has users enter information about their cycle and symptoms. Then, the app uses the information to deduce the days an individual is their most and least fertile. Thus, it gives them the information they need to avoid sex, or have at it.
The biggest downside is that it takes a few months of tracking before the readings are accurate. So, in the meantime, you may want to look into alternative birth control methods.
The other downside — which stands for any app that relies on basal body temperature — is that results may be skewed by illness and fever (not necessarily ideal during a pandemic!).
Most user-friendly: Ovia Fertility & Cycle Tracking
- Price: Free
- For: Anyone trying to track their period or monitor fertility
Don’t want to be surprised by your period again? Looking for help getting pregnant? Trying to avoid getting pregnant? Check out Ovia Fertility.
Ovia Fertility offers the same features many other birth control apps do.
It allows you to track your basal body temperature, cervical fluid, cervical position, and medication. It also:
- gives you daily menstrual and fertility tips
- helps predict your fertility every day
- helps predict the start and duration of your next period
What sets Ovia apart from other options, however, are two things.
First, it uses a combination of color coordination and easy-to-understand graphics to help you figure out what’s what.
Second, it gives you access to more than 2,000 expert articles on contraception and fertility, as well as an anonymous Q&A section.
Best for period tracking: Clue
- Price: Free
- For: Anyone who wants to learn more about their body
Clue is a platform that allows you to track your period, period symptoms, and fertility symptoms.
How? By allowing you to log information about your skin, cramps, hair, energy, and sleep.
With frequent tracking, you’ll be able to notice patterns around things like how many days before your period that your back starts to ache, and when your skin starts to show signs of your impending flow.
Transparently, this app is not the absolute best on the market for people looking to avoid pregnancy.
Best for refilling birth control: Nurx
- Price: The app itself is free, but there is a one-time $15 medical consultation fee for all new customers (and while the birth control itself will likely be free if you have insurance, the birth control brands themselves start at $15 per month if you don’t have insurance)
- For: Anyone who uses Nurx for birth control
Have you heard of Nurx? It’s one of the most popular birth control delivery services out there, which gives people who can get pregnant access to birth control pills and other contraceptives like the ring, shot, and patch.
To get a prescription you have to go through Nurx’s rigmarole, which includes:
- answering a few questions about your health
- having a consultation with a healthcare professional who will give you medical advice
- paying for the consultation ($15)
- agreeing to a treatment option
- setting up insurance
After ALL of that, you can download and use the Nurx app to schedule appointments and set up refills. No more wasting time on the drive-thru line!
Best for overall sexual health: Hers
- Price: Plans start at $12 per month
- For: Anyone who loves the idea of a one-stop health care shop
Hers is another online birth control provider that makes getting prescribed and getting your birth control easier than ever before.
Here’s its process:
- Complete an intake form online.
- Get a free medical consultation with a licensed health professional.
- Work with them to determine the best birth control for you.
- Hers will ship you the birth control you were prescribed right to your door, and ship you a new package 6 days before you run out.
If you decide that a birth control app is *not* the best method for you for preventing pregnancy, fear not: There are plenty of other ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy, like:
- intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- oral birth control pills
- birth control arm implant
- birth control shot
- birth control patch
- vaginal rings
- cervical caps
- tubal ligation
If you’re looking for a non-tech option for tracking your period, you can try a printable tracker from Etsy.
Can you use birth control apps and other birth control methods?
In fact, if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, most medical experts don’t recommend using FAM as your sole method of birth control, given its high failure rate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the failure rate can range from
While the above apps are great options for becoming more familiar with and tracking your cycle, they’re not 100 percent accurate.
That said, what you choose will really come down to what you feel is right for you, what you’re hoping to get out of the app, and how much risk you and your partner(s) may be willing to assume.
Some people will choose to use another birth control option (like internal or external condoms) only when they are having sex during their peak fertility window, while others will choose to use another birth control method all month long.
Again, if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, it’s generally recommended to pair your fave app with another form of BC.
Do birth control apps protect against STIs?
No. The only thing these apps do is try to predict the days that you are going to be your most and least fertile.
You can then use that information to determine if it makes sense for you to have sex without also using another form of birth control.
However, the only things that prevent STI transmission or lower your risk are the following:
- using a barrier method of protection, such as internal or external condoms, during sex
Using barriers methods like condoms, dental dams, and finger condoms with someone whose STI status you don’t know or who has an STI can greatly lower the risk of transmission, but they are not 100 percent effective.
Where can I learn more about menstruation and fertility?
There are a number of resources, including:
If you menstruate, a birth control app can be a great tool for you to download on your phone.
Depending on how you use the app, as well as which app you use, you can use it to learn more about your body, become more familiar with your cycle, or reduce your risk of unintentional pregnancy.
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.