IT’S odd, when you think about it, that Mother Nature has such a positive reputation, given she is responsible for natural disasters, deaths from natural causes, and all sorts of natural predators, toxins and hazards. She is hardly a maternal or even benign influence, yet many folk seem to trust her implicitly.

By contrast, Ms Nature’s arch rival “Big Pharma” is treated with suspicion and cynicism. He has his own agenda – making money – and this taints every interaction. If she’s the reliable parent who makes organic wraps for your lunchbox each morning, he’s the distant dad who tries to bribe you with McDonald’s every other weekend.

In this context, it’s easy to understand the appeal of Natural Cycles, the contraceptive app which made the headlines this week after one of its adverts was declared misleading and banned by the Advertising Standards Agency. If natural is best then why not ditch the Pill, with its synthetic hormones, in favour of a modern, trendy app subscription? Why not match your birth-control method to your organic, wholegrain diet, your mineral make-up regime and your #natural messy bun?

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It’s not as though the Pill is without downsides. Finding the right one can involve months or even years of trial and error, and every woman knows someone who has battled to have her side effects taken seriously, or had to lobby to be prescribed one of the more expensive formulations. Many feel ill-served by an NHS that consistently puts pregnancy prevention and cost-cutting first, and women’s health and wellbeing second.

It’s clear why Natural Cycles might appeal to these women, but the key to expanding a business is to look beyond your obvious target market and create problems that your products can solve. When The Guardian recently published an article about Natural Cycles written by a woman who became pregnant after using it for four months, many readers expressed astonishment. The writer admitted to being “colossally naive”, but even that felt like an understatement given the level of instant faith she had put in a hi-tech version of the rhythm method.

She referenced spending her twenties on the Pill – presumably without sufficient concerns to merit switching to a barrier method of contraception – but subsequently being troubled by”not knowing whether [her] emotional state was down to artificial hormones or not”. She interviewed another woman who had switched from Pill to app, apparently on the basis that she was “fed up with hormones”. That women’s pregnancy three months later came as a “massive shock”.

These accounts perhaps tell us less about the Natural Cycles app – given that its effectiveness rates are conditional on compliance with a fairly demanding regime, and the use of barrier contraceptives during fertile periods – and more about some women’s remarkable ignorance about how their bodies work.

In the US, Cosmopolitan magazine recently carried out a survey of young women’s attitudes to contraception, the results of which were written up under the heading “Are young women totally over the Pill?” A huge 70% of respondents who had used oral contraceptives said they had stopped taking them or thought about doing so in the previous three years. While some women cited the inconvenience of a daily dose (in contrast to, for example, using a patch, implant or injection), others told of wanting to give their bodies a break or “detox” from the hormones. The journalist, Julia Vadnal, breezily reflected that “my Pill pack has started to seem kinda like a Discman in a Spotify world”, and “artificial hormones can feel a bit early aughts”.

Women’s health experts are keen to point out that use of the Pill does not lead to any build-up of hormones and there is no medical requirement for breaks. So how have nebulous notions of wellness, cleansing and detoxing taken hold here, despite the lack of scientific evidence to support them? Why have so many women come to view their trusty Pill, which has served them well for years, as toxic, unnatural and undesirable? Is it a coincidence that businesses are poised, ready to take credit card details from such women?

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It doesn’t help that women have been misled about the science of the Pill from day one, when its creators decided that those taking it should have a break every 21 days, resulting in a withdrawal bleed. Studies have shown that women regard this needless monthly non-period as “natural”, but that’s not why it was engineered, or at least it’s not the only reason. Scientist John Rock, who played a major role in the Pill’s development, was convinced the Catholic Church could be persuaded to permit its use if women would still be bleeding regularly when taking it. He was wrong, but by the time the Pope expressed his disapproval it was far too late to go back to the drawing board.

There is a glaring need to provide women with better information about their fertility – taking a whole-life view rather than narrowly focusing on pregnancy prevention. When a for-profit company positions itself as a helpful big sister, telling women what they want to hear about natural options, it’s no surprise they are keen to listen. But it’s a good job Big Brother is monitoring the claims made about technological solutions that seem a little too good to be true.