Sexual & Reproductive Health
By J. E. Hinners, MD MPH
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Whether you attribute this holiday to Hallmark, to St. Valentine, or to the ancient Roman fertility festival in mid-February called “Lupercalia”–our red and pink, chocolate-stocked grocery stores faithfully remind us of our relational and sexual status every year…for better or for worse.
If love is in the air, or if you would like for love to be in the air, then it’s never too early to learn your options when it comes to birth control.
Plenty is already written covering the typical birth control options for both men and women.
Instead, I am interested in introducing you to an option you may not have previously heard of–the fertility computer.
Who benefits from the fertility computer?
- Women or men not thrilled about the widely known and used methods of contraception
- Women or men wanting a more natural form of birth control
- Women or men who care that the woman not be exposed to the dangers of hormonal contraception (oral contraceptives, hormonal IUDs or patches, Depo-Provera hormonal shots, etc.)
- Women or men who care that the woman not be exposed to copper IUDs
- Women or men who would like to minimize use of barrier contraception for whatever reasons–whether inconvenience, discomfort, or allergies (condoms, diaphragms, etc.)
- Women or men who are not yet willing to commit to permanent child-free status via vasectomy or tubal ligation
- Women who travel and may not have reliable wifi, phone app access, or access to typical methods of contraception
- Women and men in partnerships where commitment to mutual participation and self-discipline is possible and reliable
- Women or men who do want to get pregnant and are experiencing difficulty conceiving
The fertility computer–what is it?
The Lady Comp, by Valley Electronics, is a German computer device about the size of a CD-player that learns and analyzes a woman’s “basal” (resting) body temperature to accurately predict her time of ovulation and her period of fertility (as well as her period of infertility).
The device then accordingly gives the designated colored light signals indicating whether unprotected sex on that given day could lead to possible pregnancy, based on the woman’s fertility that day.
Fluctuations in the woman’s monthly cycle length and duration are accounted for, as ovulation predictions are not based on fixed number of days but rather the woman’s unique cycle history in combination with over 900,000 other cycles from women with varying cycle characteristics.
How does it work?
1) The woman takes her resting (“basal”) body temperature every morning with the device (roughly within the same 2-hour time period each morning) and confirms with the device the days that she is menstruating.
2) After the device has had enough time to get used to the individual woman’s cycle, it gives a colored light signal indicating her fertility that day (or whether or not unprotected intercourse could lead to pregnancy):
- GREEN = Infertile: “safe” to have unprotected sex without fear of getting pregnant
- YELLOW = Possibly fertile or unknown: “proceed with caution”–either abstain from sex or use barrier contraceptives to avoid pregnancy
- RED = Likely fertile: either abstain from sex or use barrier contraceptives to avoid pregnancy
In short, using a fertility computer would let you safely have unprotected intercourse on “green” days without fear of pregnancy. On “yellow” or “red” days, either sexual abstinence or barrier contraceptive methods would be required to avoid pregnancy.
Side note: Just to state the obvious, while “green” days may indicate “safe” to have unprotected sex and avoid pregnancy, you are still susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases if you are not in a monogamous, trustworthy relationship and are not using protection.
Basal body temperature
The principle of using the women’s basal body temperature for assessing her fertile periods is well-explained in the must-read book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility (Toni Weschler). Basal body temperature is one of the three key indicators for accurately predicting a woman’s day of ovulation. This prediction allows a strategic mapping out of which days of unprotected intercourse should and should not lead to pregnancy.
How effective is it for preventing (or planning) pregnancy?
According to Valley Electronics, several clinical studies have indicated that the Lady Comp fertility monitor is 99.3% effective for preventing pregnancy. This rate is equally safe–if not safer–than the most effective rates of other widely known contraceptive methods. Compare the Lady Comp figure to CDC’s estimated 91% effectiveness (or 9% failure rate) for oral contraceptive use.
I went ahead and did a quick search, myself, and found one of these Lady Comp effectiveness studies here where 510 Polish women were evaluated. Of the 2,040 total female cycles of correct computer use, there was only one unplanned pregnancy–or fewer than 7 out of 1000 users over the course of a year. For women using both the Lady Comp and condoms on “fertile” days, it was found that 1.035% of those women would become pregnant within one year. Higher effectiveness should be expected, of course, in cases of sexual abstinence rather than condom use on fertile days.
How many “green” or “safely unprotected” days are there per month?
The answer to this question could really vary greatly, depending on the individual woman’s cycle characteristics and length. For one woman, it might amount to 13 days while for another woman, it could amount to 20 days–there are no guarantees (or refunds!) for number of “green” days.
How cost-effective is it?
The Lady Comp for pregnancy prevention is $495 (excluding shipping). The Lady Comp Baby for those wanting pregnancy is $595 (excluding shipping). Yes, it is an investment, but Planned Parenthood estimates the monthly cost of birth control pills to be between $0-50/month, and the Lady Comp lasts for seven years. So at $50 per month for birth control pills, the device would already be paid for after 10 months with this same amount of money–but then you would get an extra 6 years of use where you would no longer be paying for the device. Payment installment options are also available for the Lady Comp.
What are the drawbacks?
- If you are not in a monogamous, trustworthy relationship, Lady Comp will not prevent sexually transmitted diseases on “green” days
- If you are not disciplined to take your temperature every morning, then Lady Comp is not for you
- If you cannot abstain from intercourse on “non-green” days or else if you cannot accept other barrier methods of contraception on “non-green” days, then Lady Comp is not for you
What if I have other questions?
Read this page.
How do I get one?
On that note–enjoy your Valentine’s Day!
And if you need some help getting your love on, you may like to read more about the natural aphrodisiac maca 🙂