Technology is making its way into female healthcare, and fertility tracking is presenting as a primary of interest. With innovations such as Natural Cycles, the FDA approved birth control app, many other companies are looking to create technologies that reshape the way we envision birth control. Here, we review two more birth control technologies that also utilize smartphones.
Based in Switzerland and San Francisco, Ava is a company that has created a watch-like device capable of detecting menstrual cycle and ovulation. Using a superficial sensor, the device takes diagnostic readings such as temperature changes, pulse rate, blood flow, and sleep patterns and correlates them to cycle changes.
Specifically, the Ava is equipped with four different physiological sensors. The first is a bioimpedance (voltage) sensor that estimates skin properties such as hydration and intra and extracellular water concentrations. The temperature sensors found in the bracelet focus greatly on heat loss patterns associated with fertility cycles. Sleep monitoring is achieved primarily through Ava’s accelerometer, analyzing motion of the device to track sleep cycles. Pulse rate and blood flow diagnostics are determined through a photoplethysmography, an optical sensor that uses two light wavelengths from the skin to calculate heart rate, pulse rate, breathing rate, and perfusion (blood flow). For more details on the device’s technology, visit Ava’s tech breakdown here.
The device’s efficacy is backed by a study consisting of only 41 women, however the company plans to expand its trials into larger study sizes. With the company’s conception being in 2014 Ava is still relatively young, but has great potential. With $42.3 million raised in venture capital from investors, it is clear that the market is interested in this convenience-oriented approach to fertility monitoring.
“Because it’s a bracelet, we can feed those data points in a much more convenient fashion,” said Lea Von Bidder, Ava’s President and Co-Founder. “So you don’t have to get up at the same time [to take your temperature and] you don’t have to pee on something. That allows us to detect [and] give you an early first indicator of your fertile window.”
Created in 2015, Mira is another innovative fertility tracking device that analyzes urine samples for hormone levels associated with fertility. Luteinizing hormone (LH) is the hormone targeted by the device, being that LH levels spike to their peak during ovulation. By measuring urine concentration of LH with the device’s convenient wand-like arm, users can easily monitor their fertility cycles based on hormonal shifts.
Created by Sylvia Kang and colleagues, the device is FDA and CE approved after being tested on 400 urine samples in a clinical study. Mira was found to yield LH readings with 99% accuracy in comparison to hospitals’ formal analyses.
The device differs from traditional urine LH tests not only in that it integrates a convenient smartphone app, but that it provides exact LH readings that can create a personalized LH curve. Traditional LH urine tests have a threshold system that essentially deems a woman to be “fertile” or “not fertile”, whereas Mira provides a more in-depth analysis of the user’s fertility based on hormone surges.
“43 percent of women right now take more than three months to conceive. There is no really convenient but also accurate information provider that can guide them and help them through this process,” said Kang. “The only thing that you can do to make this data really meaningful is to track something first that is medical-grade. The only thing that’s medical-grade in fertility is your hormone level.”