My Fertility #FemTech Journey
If you have been following me on Instagram for a while, you’ve seen quiet a few #FemTechFriday posts featuring fertility tech companies. I became particularly interested in this topic because as a 34 year old female I have many friends and family members trying to start or add to their families and my own conception journey for our second baby (Due Nov 2019) took much longer than anticipated. In the spirit of honesty and sharing information that will (fingers crossed) be helpful for you or other women you know, here’s my experience with different products to get pregnant.
I started trying to get pregnant in June of 2018, shortly after my daughter’s first birthday. I began by using my Flo app which in addition to period tracking should alert the user of their fertile window. Quick biology lesson: sperm can live in the female body for up to 5 days and a released egg can live for 12-24 hours after ovulation. If you are trying to get pregnant it’s important to start having sex 4-6 days before your predicted date (every 24-hours-ish) and a day afterwards. I used the Flo app for 3 months without success getting pregnant. I decided to try to get a little more scientific.
Enter the Ava bracelet. I’ve featured this before on Instagram. The wearable goes on your wrist while you sleep and collects millions of data point on skin temperature, heart rate variability ratio, resting pulse, breathing rate, and sleep. This information goes into the Ava algorithm to lead to your fertile window prediction. As with most algorithms, the more you feed it data the smarter it gets. I wore the bracelet every night (sans maybe 2 or 3 when I forgot to charge it) for 4 months, hoping that it would give me a more accurate fertile window. Within the app associated with the bracelet you can log other data such as cervical mucus (if you like tracking that kind of thing, I never got into it because #ickfactor) and when you have intercourse. During this time I was also comparing fertile windows between Flo and Ava to see if there were any differences with the biological data.
After 7 months of getting trying with both methods, still no baby. I went to my OB-GYN because I was worried I needed to start thinking about fertility drugs or testing. Infertility isn’t diagnosed until you have been trying for a year but I am a planner, and I also know that my fertility could be in decline due to my age. He ran an AMH test which showed that my hormone levels were looking good for my conception so we kept the course of no interventions. He did suggest that I try over the counter ovulation tests. These are little strips that look like a pregnancy test and you start using them after your period ends until you get a positive read that you have a lutenizing hormone (LH) surge which indicates ovulation in the next 12-36 hours. Then it is time to get busy! For women with a 28 day cycle ovulation is expected between days 13-15.
I was interested to compare my ovulation test kit fertile window with the Ava and Flo app. What I found was that my expected day of ovulation in both of the apps were a day or two off from what the ovulation test kit indicated. Since this ovulation test kit measures your LH hormones I considered it the most accurate in comparison with a predictive algorithm. In my second month of using the ovulation kit I got pregnant!
User Experience: What was easy and what was annoying
So let’s talk about user experience. The Flo app is pretty low user burden and it worked for me the first time to get pregnant. You just have to add in when you start your period and when it ends and the app pretty much does the rest unless you want to track other symptoms. The Ava bracelet really excited me as a real #femtech product and wearable but I got frustrated with the fact it had to be plugged in to the wall to sync with the app, I occasionally had issues with the app recognizing the device, and it had to be charged every day. One one work trip I brought my Ava bracelet and the charging cable which used a standard USB wall charger but realized I had to make a choice when to charge my phone versus the bracelet. In comparison, my Fitbit needs charging once a week so I hope the battery life improves with Ava. I had V1 of the product and I expect it to get better over time, there is already a V2 available, so I haven’t given up on them as a company and would like them to succeed because I think they are a good intermediary non-invasive option to give women more info about the reproductive state.
The ovulation kits were the most effort. My MD suggested I check at the same time every day between the hours of 10-noon. Well, if you are like me, you are at work at that time. This meant taking a disposable coffee cup into the bathroom with the reader and the test strip discretely tucked into my pocket or up my sleeve, assembling the kit in the bathroom, peeing in a cup, dipping the stick, and waiting 5 minutes to get a positive or negative read, then trashing the evidence in the office restroom. I’m sure our cleaning lady was wondering who was drinking coffee in the bathroom…Also, I don’t know why, but seeing that ‘negative’ for 6 days in a row really bummed me out. I wish the messaging could be ‘not ovulating’ instead so you feel like like a failure. It was fairly easy to assemble the test each time ( you use the same ‘reader’ half of the stick and change out the test strips which click in.)
The Flo App is free and can be downloaded from Apple App Store or Google Play Store
Ava Bracelet starts at $249 for the device and the app is free to download. I truly hope this cost can go down because I know that is out of reach for many women and it currently isn’t covered by insurance.
Ovulation test kits range from about $18-40 depending on store brand v. name brand, and how many test trips you get. You can find them next to the pregnancy tests in any pharmacy or Target/Walmart. I went with a store brand and I thought it worked fine. There are some out there now that sync with apps to save the data over time which puts them on the more expensive end.
So there you have it! If the Ovulation kits ended up not working I had an Ovusense device ready to go to try next. This is a sensor that is inserted into your vagina at night that syncs with an app to indicate ovulation. I’ve heard great success stories from this so if you are #TTC I suggest checking it out.
I hope this is helpful to some of you out there on your baby making journey. If you have any individual questions feel free to drop them in the comment or send me a message from the home page.