And two Catholic colleges are leading the way: 

Natural family planning has been having a bit of a moment.

Natural Cycles, a family planning app approved by the European Union as contraception, has been alternatively held up as both a savior and a scam. Research has rated the app 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, better than both condoms and the pill. The company raised $30 million in funding in 2017. But when a Stockholm hospital reported that nearly 6 percent of women seeking abortions there were using the app as their primary form of birth control, the company struggled with the resulting PR crisis.

Natural family planning methods, also called fertility awareness methods, involve tracking a woman’s fertile cycle and — to prevent pregnancy — abstaining from sex on days of high fertility (the process can be reversed for those trying to achieve pregnancy).

Both Marquette and Georgetown Universities have been, on a smaller scale, carving out their own part of that app space. The two Jesuit colleges have been involved in developing their own family planning methods, devices and phone apps. Roman Catholicism, like some other religions, eschews all other methods of birth control.

At Marquette, the Institute for Natural Family Planning created the Marquette Model in 1998. The method requires a woman to track her hormone levels with a urine monitor (it looks similar to a pregnancy test) and gives the option to input additional data, like body temperature and cervical mucus levels.

The institute now does research on the model’s efficacy and potential side effects and has also developed an app for couples. The Marquette Fertility app was launched in 2017 for both Apple and Android devices, though it will soon be taken down for redevelopment.

Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health has been involved in the development of iCycleBeads, another fertility awareness app. Staff at the institute developed both the Standard Days Method and the CycleBeads device that the app is based on. The Standard Days Method involves abstaining from sex on days eight through 19 of a woman’s cycle, and the CycleBeads, a ring of colored beads with a movable rubber marker, are a device to help keep track of those days. Georgetown owns the patent on the beads, which it has licensed to Cycle Technologies, the creator of the app.

Georgetown also developed the TwoDay Method, now being used in Cycle Technologies’ 2Day family planning app.

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