3 exciting developments in women’s reproductive health

All developed by female scientists!

Ava Bracelet. Photo courtesy of Ava

A handful of recent technological developments in women’s health—dubbed “Femtech”—have investors talking, and women getting excited to see a long-overlooked area of their healthcare finally receiving some much-needed attention. Three new developments will allow women at any stage of their reproductive journey to take better care of their health, and what’s more, they’re all being driven by awesome female scientists.

1. Saliva fertility test

bluDiagnostics

First on our list is a new at-home fertility test that uses saliva to monitor a woman’s progesterone and estrogen levels—the two most important hormones related to her fertility. Knowing her relative levels of estrogen and progesterone allows a woman to know where she is in her menstrual cycle—and therefore how fertile she is on any given day.

What is it?

Developed by electrical engineer, bioengineer, and biochemist Katie Brenner, the test comes from the new tech start-up bluDiagnostics (of which Brenner is also a co-founder). Using an oral thermometer-like device, the test detects a woman’s daily progesterone and estrogen levels, and sends that information to a mobile app which reports the test results immediately.

Why it’s awesome

In the past, most women have relied upon at-home urine tests and/or blood draws taken by their medical providers to detect their current stage of fertility. As someone who relied upon at-home urine tests (along with Natural Family Planning charting) to determine my optimal window for getting pregnant, I can attest to their usefulness, but also to their inconvenience (after all, having your husband remind you to pee in a cup every morning during your possible fertile window isn’t the best wake-up call). Given the choice, I would have gladly used a device to test my saliva instead!

What’s more, for women at-risk for miscarriage and early pregnancy loss, knowing their progesterone levels can help them and their doctors monitor for early pregnancy-loss warning signs. As someone who fell into this group and required constant blood tests early on in my pregnancy to monitor my progesterone levels, I can definitely say that a saliva test would have been a far more convenient way to do so—and would have saved me from developing quite so many bruises in the crook of my arm.

What to look for

BluDiagnostics plans to seek FDA-approval for the device sometime this year, after which it would it would become available on the market.

2. Blood test to diagnose endometriosis

Next could be a true game-changer in women’s health: a blood test to diagnose endometriosis, a painful condition that affects an estimated 10 million American women. Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of female infertility in the United States, and causes intensely painful menstrual periods for many women, leading to lost days of work and productivity—and one too many cancelled weekend brunch dates with friends while stuck curled around a heating pad.

What is it?

Developed by biomedical engineer and CEO Heather Bowerman of the start-up Dot Laboratories, this new test hopes to provide women and their doctors an easier way to diagnose endometriosis than ever before.

Why it’s awesome

Right now, the only conclusive way to diagnose endometriosis is through invasive surgery. Therefore, it can take years (for some, as many as eleven!) for a woman to receive an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment for the condition.

Bowerman’s blood test promises to change all of that. With the ability to diagnose the condition with a simple, accurate blood test, women could start receiving treatment for this painful and damaging condition faster than ever before, helping them spend less time lying in bed with a heating pad and a bottle of Midol, and more time at brunch with their girlfriends (and, when the time comes, even helping them get pregnant faster).

What to look for

Bowerman’s company hopes to launch the test in mid-2017.

3. Ava, the wearable fertility detector

Ava

The third and final item on our list is a wearable device that has been shown to predict a woman’s fertile days with 89 percent accuracy.

What is it?

Developed by Lea von Bidder, founder and CEO of Ava, the Ava device looks something like a funky watch. Worn only at night, Ava monitors and collects data on nine different physiological parameters that help indicate a woman’s fertile window.

Why it’s awesome

Ava monitors and tracks more physiological parameters of fertility than any other fertility monitoring product currently on the market. Ava could potentially take the guesswork out of fertility monitoring for many women both looking to get pregnant or postpone pregnancy without artificial hormones or devices—and all that’s needed is for the wearer to remember to place it around her wrist before bed, and sync it to her mobile app in the morning.

What to look for

Ava has already received FDA approval as a Class 1 medical device. Recently, the company has begun conducting another study (with a larger sample size) in the hopes of improving the device’s accuracy. With greater accuracy in predicting the fertile window, women could more confidently use the device to naturally prevent as well as achieve pregnancy.

It’s important to remember that all of these technologies are still in the preliminary stages, and early hype does not always result in an accurate, effective product hitting the market—not to mention the fact that gaining FDA approval is no easy walk in the park! One thing’s for certain, though: this newfound attention on women’s health is most certainly a good thing. For too long, women have been offered little else besides the Pill to manage a myriad of reproductive health issues, an intervention that may have helped alleviate certain symptoms, but hasn’t actually done much to treat underlying conditions.

The fact is that the female reproductive system is a beautiful, complicated symphony of hormones that can require some fine-tuning when the notes aren’t quite “on-pitch.” It’s refreshing, exciting, and—frankly—unsurprising that so many of these new Femtech developments are being led by intelligent, motivated women, eager to do the hard work necessary to develop innovative new products for the care and keeping of the gift of our female fertility.

 

Grace Stark
Grace Stark

Grace is a freelance writer with a specialty in bioethics whose work has been featured on the Public Discourse, Aleteia, the Daily Signal, the Federalist, RedState, and the Marianas Business Journal. In her free time, Grace enjoys cooking, baking, teaching her friends’ kids to swim, and (happy) crying over news stories featuring old people who have been married for forever. She and her husband are both certified Natural Family Planning instructors who live on Guam, and they are currently expecting their first child in March 2017.

Leave a comment: