For millions of women, getting pregnant can be a challenge. Breanna Johnson, 31, and her husband have been trying to conceive for seven months.
"Originally we were hoping the process was going to be easy, natural, organic," Johnson said. "But it's not an easy process and it's a lot more complicated than I ever thought it would be."
For Johnson, tracking her cycle and figuring out which days she was the most fertile was the first hurdle. Couples who time intercourse at the right time double their chances of conceiving. But for so many women with irregular menstrual cycles, knowing which day is prime for baby making can be tough.
Some use a basal thermometer every morning at the same time to look for temperature increases that indicate ovulation. Others use urine samples on pricey ovulation test strips to look for a surge in hormones. But now a new gadget called Ava aims to make this as easy as checking your email.
Ava is a Fitbit-like bracelet packed with sensors that is worn at night while the woman is sleeping. In the morning, she then connects the device to her phone via Bluetooth and an app tells her if she is ovulating or in her fertile window.
Ava is registered with the FDA as a medical class one device and has been clinically proven to be 89 percent accurate to detect 5.3 fertile days in a woman's menstrual cycle.
Johnson has been using Ava for six months now. She even did her own trial of the product and compared the results to the urine strips for a few months and found that the results perfectly matched. She now only uses Ava, saying it is much less "messy."
"To be able to put a bracelet on at night and gather all of this data and ultimately take the guesswork out of when our most fertile days are kind of was a no-brainer for me," she said.
Rather than only looking at a single factor of ovulation, like a urine test or the thermometer, Ava has sensors that track nine biological parameters such as the pulse rate, breathing rate, sleep quality, skin temperature and blood flow.
Ava can detect the very beginning of the fertile window, in real time. Compared with the ovulation prediction kits, which only detect the last day or two of the fertile window, and the temperature method, which only confirms ovulation after the fact.
"What's nice about this device is women can track their cycles in advance of ovulation," said Dr. Danielle Lane, a fertility specialist at the Lane Fertility Institute.
Other apps, like Glow and Fertility Friend, are available to help women track their cycles but Lane said these apps make assumptions based on the woman's average cycle.
"This app is actually tracking day in and day out based on real time," Lane said. "That is what the technology leap is with Ava."
But Lane was quick to mention that understanding your menstrual cycle will not guarantee pregnancy. There could be many other factors that are getting in the way of conceiving, and a device like Ava does not work for someone who has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or other disorders. But the data collected from Ava could still be useful for the physician.
"Let's say we don't get pregnant in a year," Johnson said. "Now I have a log of all of this data to go share with a doctor."
Ava Sciences is based in San Francisco and Switzerland, and the 26-year-old founder, Lea von Bidder, said she was motivated to start the company when her co-founder was struggling to get pregnant.
"Personally I still think it's shocking how little innovation there was in this space for decades," she said.
She said that Ava now has "thousands" of users and they have a few dozen Ava-user pregnancies confirmed.
The product is for sale in the U.S. and Europe for $199.
Ava Sciences has raised $12.3 million in funding from investors including Polytech Ecosystem Ventures, Blue Ocean Ventures, Global Sources, Swisscom and ZKB.
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