Birth control app Natural Cycles has released new functionality to help track users’ symptoms if they feel sick and are experiencing potential COVID-19 symptoms. 

The optional Natural Cycles trackers allow users to track their own symptoms in real-time and share them with their healthcare provider.

They will also be able to track a negative or positive COVID-19 test. Natural Cycles’ research team may then be able to study the data in anonymised form to better understand the spread and the effects of the virus in different parts of the world.

Natural Cycles, which has over 1.5 million registered users across 162 countries, is powered by an algorithm that uses a woman’s individual basal body temperature to determine her daily fertility status.

Users are already taking their temperature each morning with their Natural Cycles thermometer and combining this temperature tracking already taking place with the COVID-19 symptom trackers will provide a unique opportunity in real time to follow the development of the virus. 

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The company has already seen a spike in temperature data being added over the past few weeks.

“The last few weeks we have been seeing changes in how our users use the app as the situation in the world is rapidly changing due to the new coronavirus,” said Natural Cycles co-founder and CEO Elina Berglund.

“We asked ourselves how we can better help our users, as well as the medical community, and immediately dedicated internal resources to release our COVID-19 symptom trackers functionality to users everywhere on an expedited timeline.”

The trackers, which are optional and must be enabled by users, will join existing functionality that has served useful for users during this time.

Natural Cycles is able to detect unusually elevated body temperature on an individual basis - potentially before it reaches a fever level - and automatically excludes it from the algorithm. If this happens, Natural Cycles sends users a message in the app to let them know.

While the trackers are provided for temporary documentation purposes only and are in no way intended to replace a professional medical diagnosis or treatment, Natural Cycles continues to work closely with healthcare professionals.

The company donated hundreds of thermometers and subscriptions to healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus efforts for monitoring purposes.

It has also already received inquiries from renowned third-party institutions looking for data of this kind to help support further research around coronavirus.