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Today is the most amazing Friday ever! It’s a beautiful spring day in Stockholm and we could have lunch outside in the sun for the first time here at SUP46. They have a nice really big courtyard just outside the office.
What of course makes the day even better is that the new, beautified NaturalCycles website is out and the new iOS app has been submitted for approval. The new website is not only much prettier, but it also allows you to try NaturalCycles Prevent of Plan for free for 3 months, or you can pay for a year and get a basal thermometer shipped home to you. Cool! Another amazing feature of the new website is that it’s available in 6 languages!
We get a lot of questions about how many green days to expect in the beginning when using NaturalCycles, since NaturalCycles needs some data to get to know you and your body. Every woman is different, with different cycle characteristics and different body temperatures, so we cannot make any reliable assumptions about your body until you start entering your own data in your NaturalCycles account.
The number of green days a woman gets in the first ovulatory cycle depends a lot on those first data points. What cycle day did she start measuring at? Does she measure every day or does she skip a lot of days? How much is her temperature fluctuating? Which cycle day does she ovulate? Has she recently been on hormonal contraception and will this postpone ovulation? I’ve already written a separate blog entry concerning how much the pill affects your cycle, here:
NaturalCycles requires 6 low temperature values before looking for a rise due to ovulation. This means that if she ovulates around day 15, she needs to start measuring around day 10 at the latest. If she starts measuring after the temperature rise, then it is of course not possible for NaturalCycles to detect ovulation. Below is such an example, where she started measuring on day 21:
One could argue that most probably ovulation had happened there and NaturalCycles could give green days, but before the following menstruation, there is really no way of knowing whether ovulation has happened and if the temperature is high, or if ovulation is for some reason delayed and the rise is still to come. As safety comes first, these days should not be green!
Below you see another example of a user that started measuring her temperature on cycle day 11, ovulated on day 20 and then got green days on day 23. She also entered a first positive LH test (ovulation test) on day 20, which helps to get easier green days.
In some extreme scenarios, where the woman does not measure very often in combination with highly fluctuating temperatures, it can take up to two cycles to get the first post-ovulatory green days.
To summarize: on average, if a user starts measuring before ovulation, she gets 40.2% green days during her first cycle. So even though the number of green days in the first cycle varies greatly, depending on several factors, the users do on average get a significant amount of green days.
I get a lot of concerned questions from women who are coming off the pill, or other hormonal contraception, and starting to use NaturalCycles as a birth control. How much will the hormones affect my cycle? Will NaturalCycles be safe and take the pill into account? How many green days (no need for condom) will I get? For those who are not familiar with NaturalCycles, it is a natural contraception, which analyses your body temperature, and optionally ovulation test data, to determine when you are fertile (red days) and when you most definitely are not fertile (green days).
How much will the hormones affect my cycle?
The cycles of many women, although they had been many years on hormones, just directly go back to normal. Some women are only mildly affected, like for instance myself. I had the Implanon (the hormonal implant in the arm) for 10 years and after taking it out, my first 2 cycles were 5 weeks long, then a few cycles were 4 weeks and then back to 3.5 weeks, which is normal for me. Some women are unfortunately highly affected. The worst case I saw was a woman who quit the pill last summer and started measuring for NaturalCycles. Her first cycle was 108 days and since the time between ovulation and the next menstruation usually stays the same for one woman, she ovulated on day 97. Her next cycle was a bit shorter; about two months, and the one after that about 6 weeks. Basically it took almost a year until her cycle was back to normal.
The research that has been carried out on the subject has different conclusions, much depending on who was financing and/or performing the studies (one should not forget that the pharmaceutical industry has a very strong lobbying business). One interesting fact that I read is that the hormonal treatment that affects the cycle the most is the combined oral pill, which contains both progesterone and estrogen. For women using the combined pill, 50% got severely affected for the following year after stopping the pill. This was clear from a study performed on women quitting the pill in order to get pregnant and the majority of women who had been taken the combined pill had more difficulties to get pregnant. The good news is that after a year of being free of hormones more than 90% of the women had gone back to having regular cycles.
One conclusion to draw from this is that it is important to quit the pill quite some time before one plans to get pregnant. Not only due to the decreased chances of falling pregnant, but also to give the body a break for a while. It’s clear that being on a constant dose of hormones, is very disruptive and unhealthy for the body. If this is followed directly by pregnancy, which is an even stronger dose with lots of hormones, it might be even more difficult to find a balance again after the pregnancy and breastfeeding is over.
Will NaturalCycles be safe and take the pill into account?
Yes, definitely. When you set up your personal account with NaturalCycles, we ask you if you’ve recently been on the pill, for how long and when you stopped. NaturalCycles will then be extra cautious with your cycle and it knows that it’s very likely that you’ll start off with longer cycles, due to delayed ovulation, which will get shorter and shorter with time. So there is no need to worry, just be patient and confident that your cycle will eventually go back to normal.
How many green days (no need for condom) will I get?
How many green days you will get of course greatly depends on how much your cycle is disruptive by the use of hormones. If your cycle directly goes back to being somewhat regular, then no problem, you will get a nice amount of green days. If your cycle is very disrupted and you almost never ovulate, then the green days will be few. In that case, on the other hand, it is still very useful to monitor your cycle and confirm that it is slowly improving with time. The woman I mentioned above, who had a very disturbed cycle after quitting the pill, only had 25% green days her first year using NaturalCycles. 25% is still better than nothing and it’s nice for a couple to not have to use condoms 100% of the time, which is the other option when quitting the pill.
Overall, it is a big decision to quit the pill and to change birth control, and there is no guarantee that your cycle and body will just continue as nothing happened if you have been taking hormones for years. It’s nevertheless important to give your body a chance and to try to take the healthier path for the future.
I got an interesting question from a reader – a girl who aspires to become a particle physicist.
She wondered what it’s like to be a woman in the world of particle physics.
I find this a very interesting topic, so I decided to make a dedicated post. This is of course my own opinion and you’d probably get a different answer depending on whom you ask.
I initially studied physics engineering and the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden. Although there were predominantly men in my class, we were still about 25% girls, which I’ve heard is quite high compared to many other countries. In the last year, when the students chose which courses to take, there was a clear difference in the interest between the girls and the guys. The guys took more applied engineering courses, while in my advanced nuclear physics course, we were 7 girls and 1 guy. I must admit that back then, it never even crossed my mind that it would be something unique to be a woman and a physicist. I thought that was something of the past. I actually found a lot of very good girl friends at university, mostly physics girls, that still liked to go out and have fun and look good doing it.
The first time it hit me that being a woman in physics is something out of the ordinary was during my exchange year in California at UCSB. There I got a lot of comments from guys who’s reaction to what I studied was “But you are a girl, and pretty, and tanned – why are you studying physics?”. These guys were however not physicist themselves, but more like surfer duds.
After I came to CERN, this never happened to me again. At CERN, I was always treated with respect and I never once had to think about that I might have been treated differently because I am a woman. If anything I would say that it is a benefit to be a woman in physics at CERN. There are so many similar guys there, that when you give a talk as a woman, people are more likely to remember you and your work. For your private life it is of course more difficult to find good girlfriends around, since your colleagues are mostly men and fewer women.
Although someone told me that there are overall 12% women at CERN, I think the number is worse among the engineers and the accelerator people, and higher among the particle physicists. In fact, during most of my years at CERN, my experiment, ATLAS, was lead by a woman called Fabiola Gianotti. And personally, I was quite lucky in the sense that during both my PhD and my Post-doc, I was working in groups where we were roughly 50% women.
Overall, I would say that being a woman in physics is definitely no disadvantage. Most of the time, even if you find yourself in a meeting room of 25 men and you are the only woman, you will not think about it or even notice it. I must however add, that since I now switched from working with particle physics to NaturalCycles, which mainly has to do with women, I truly enjoy the extra interaction with other girls. Now when I go to a social event and women ask me what I do, they are very interested and they all want to know more about my project. Before, when I explained that I was looking for this strange little particle called a Higgs boson, they mainly said “um hm” and tried to find another conversation topic. So, even though I didn’t think it would matter, it was a surprisingly positive feeling to switch from a world of men, to a world of women.
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Today we went to Bern to present NaturalCycles in front of a jury from CTI, to be accepted into their coaching program for start-ups.
CTI is the federal commission of technology and innovation and if you enter their program there is an 88% chance that your start-up is in business 5 years later. We had already met with our coach a few times, but today was the official day of coaching acceptance. Raoul gave a great presentation and we got to discuss a lot with the jury, who were giving us several difficult, but interesting, questions.
After the presentation and the discussion, we had to leave the room for a while for the jury to convene. It took quite long so we got a bit nervous about whether we would make it or not, but luckily we did! As a milestone they said that we should aim to have IP check completed, and have decided on which market and business strategy to focus on, by February 2014.
Lots of fun work ahead! Afterwards we went for a nice lunch outside in sunny Bern.
The woman’s body is really a remarkable thing. Cycle after cycle, the uterus does its job and releases another egg, expecting it to be fertilized. Today, since we have such great knowledge through medical research on what’s going on in the uterus, we can use it to our advantage to either prevent or plan a pregnancy. The time frame when a woman is fertile only occurs once per cycle and is called the fertile window.
The fertile window includes the 5 days prior to ovulation and the day of ovulation.
The 5 days period prior to ovulation is determined from the longest time sperm can survive in the uteral environment. Note, however, that most sperm have a lifetime significantly less than 5 days – more like 2 or 3 days, but to completely exclude a possibility of pregnancy one must take the longest living sperm into account. For sperm to survive any significant time at all, the uterus must contain the fertile type of cervical mucus, which helps the sperm to live longer as well as to be able to travel up the uterus and fallopian tubes. Without the presence of fertile cervical mucus sperm typically only survive about 4 hours.
The fertile cervical mucus is triggered by a rise in estrogen prior to ovulation. The amount of fertile cervical mucus does not only vary from woman to woman, but also on the age of the woman. The older you get, the fewer days you produce cervical mucus and hence the narrower your fertile window becomes.
Once released through ovulation, the egg can maximally survive up to 36h, but typically only 12-24h. Studies have shown that the quality of the egg deteriorates very quickly; causing the probability of conception to decrease rapidly every hour once the egg has been released. For optimal chances of conception, sperm should thus already be present in the fallopian tube once the egg is released. Therefore, the most fertile day of the woman’s cycle is rather the day prior to ovulation than the day of ovulation itself.
To prevent pregnancy through detecting ovulation and predicting the fertile window, one must assume the longest living sperm and egg. This sums up to 6 days in the cycle. What’s more tricky is to accurately calculate the uncertainty of the ovulation day for a woman. That is, when do we think she will ovulate and what’s the earliest possibility of ovulation to occur. Luckily this is what NaturalCycles‘ algorithm does for you. When you start measuring your temperature, NaturalCycles will be very cautious as it does not know around what time you usually ovulate. With more and more data, NaturalCycles is able to better estimate your ovulation day, the variation of your ovulation day and the uncertainty on the estimated variation of your ovulation day. All this is required for a full-proof birth control method using natural family planning. So don’t chart by hand to prevent getting pregnant ladies – it is doomed to end up in an accident. Use the mathematical tools provided for you and you’ll save both time and hassle.