A popular wrist-worn device to help women get pregnant is gaining fame as a sort of "Fitbit for fertility."
It's called Ava, and it's a fertility-tracking bracelet that the San Francisco-based startup touts as being clinically proven to detect, in real-time, a woman's five-day ovulation window with nearly 90 percent accuracy. The company says the device doubles a couple's chances of conceiving in a given month.
"I'm 30, so I feel like, as you get older as a woman, there's a little more pressure. You don't know if you're going to be able to get pregnant as easily," said Ava user Jade Tolbert. "So using the Ava bracelet just took a lot of stress and pressure off myself that I could understand my body better."
For about five months, newlyweds Tolbert and her husband Tanner - from "The Bachelor in Paradise" - tried to conceive with no luck.
"I was using an ovulation calendar to try and kind of figure out my cycle but there's not a lot of information out there so we were just kind of winging it," Tolbert said.
Within the second month of using Ava, which is supposed to be worn at night and is designed for healthy women, Jade got pregnant. Her new baby, Emmy, is now four months old.
"I think it's just a real game changer for the whole industry of women's health," said Ava co-founder and CEO Lea von Bidder.
"We have really been used to having methods that are really unreliable, that are not fun to use at all," explained von Bidder. "And I think, now we're in the 21st century, we really needed something that is easier for women when they're trying to track their cycle and when they're trying to get pregnant."
Ava's sensors collect data on nine parameters including resting pulse rate, skin temperature and breathing. A clinical study published in Scientific Reports and conducted in Zurich backs up the company's claims that resting pulse rate during a woman's fertile window does increase.
von Bidder recently earned a spot on the 2018 Forbes "30 under 30" list in the health care category.
Gabrielle San Antonio got pregnant within the first month of using Ava.
"After ovulation, if conception had happened all your rates go up and it would be a significant drop if you weren't pregnant and so that morning I was just like okay, if they go up again, I'll test and see," said San Antonio.
The company says there have been about a thousand pregnancies since its launch in August of last year.
"It looks like it's probably about as accurate as a urine predictor stick, which a lot of women are familiar with and have used, so I think it's just yet another tool that women might find appealing," said Dr. Heather Huddleston, an expert in reproductive endocrinology and fertility at UCSF.
"With some of the research that has been done it is pretty clear that there is differences in heart rate that happen at different times in the cycle and that's really being driving by the levels of hormones that are occurring during those phases of the cycle," she added.
Ava has raised more than 12 million dollars in funding, and is part of a booming fertility tech industry. For example, Wink is an oral fertility thermometer built to sync with the app Kindara via bluetooth (www.kindara.com). Yono is an earbud thermometer that's worn at night to monitor hormones and fertility cycles. It tracks body temperature and syncs to its app.
"Our vision really is that women will wear Ava for 20, 30, 40 years of their life and Ava will be with them through all of those stages and help them with individual challenges that they have," said von Bidder.
Tolbert says she has plans to expand her family.
"I do feel like now … it's just nice to have the scientific data. This is how my body is right now. The knowledge just makes you feel more secure," she said.
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