Wearable Device Aims to Help Women Track Fertility Data

APRIL 05, 2018
Getting pregnant can be difficult for many couples. It comes as no surprise that there are a number of apps out there to help women identify their most fertile days to help with conception. My wife used 1 when we were trying for our first child. Though I can't say it helped, she liked it because it gave her a community to be involved with through the process. Up to this point, I feel most of the data has been mixed on whether these things help or not, but it's not like they are using unknown science. Instead, they are assisting women to collect evidence and put it together in a fashion that looks more meaningful.
So it comes to my surprise to hear about a new device for women to wear on a wrist at night to help identify their menstrual cycles. The device, call the Ava Fertility Tracker (from Ava Science), purports to measure a woman's fertile window, stress level, sleep quality, and other data that is relevant to help them better understand their bodies. Now, this is novel, as it is the first wearable device I have seen dedicated to assisting women to identify their fertility windows, and it really collects a lot of physiological data itself that is converse to other companies. Take the app my wife was using beforehand, she had to enter in parameters herself, and while she could input her exercise and steps into the app, it didn't do more than that. 
Now then, is this was just another product with little science to back it up? And happily, I can say this company seems heavily vested in their product, and have conducted several studies using its product, presented them at meetings, and published in peer-reviewed journals. Next up, they are in the process of enrolling and carrying out a more extensive study of 400+ individuals to verify how helpful Ava is with getting women pregnant, so I think that will be the pivot point for this product to make it really big. And that's the thing—Ava doesn't come cheap, running $249. 
But, I think Ava has some strengths and weaknesses, depending on how you look at the current market aimed at women's health. It's not exactly a market flooded with well-validated products for women, so there are a lot of opportunities to get in at a good time. The other issue though, is that there has been some bad press recently for other products that could make women hesitant. Take for instance the recent, alleged 37 unwanted pregnancies attributed to the use of the app Natural Cycles. While that product is approved in the EU, it is not approved by the FDA.

Natural Cycles is based on measuring body temperature to track fertility windows, to facilitate or avoid pregnancy. But Ava is registered with the FDA, and seems to have some good science behind it at this time. No product is 100% effective, and Natural Cycles has stood by that in its defense. Ava, will likely at some point face similar issues and may need to navigate them such in the future, but if their science backs them up, and they sell this product to help women get pregnant, they may have a better standing. 
Ava Science. . Accessed April 4, 2018.

Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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