From the minute we “officially become women”, and get our period, our body gives us signals letting us know the exact stage we are at within our own personal, monthly cycle. This amazing phenomenon, not only helps us become more in tune with our bodies but it is part of who we are as women. Now technology is bringing us devices and apps that help us keep track of our bodies’ signals and thus manage our fertility. This looks like the beginning of the 21st Century revolution in women’s reproductive health.
The world of wearable devices for tracking fertility is growing and the competition only serves to show there is a real demand out there. As a Tempdrop staffer, I follow all the latest trends, innovations and buzz in our industry. But I am also sort of a tech geek. Not the type who has an engineering degree , but the type who enjoys seeing creative innovations that change society. I get pumped about breakthroughs that can both foresee change and that give us the ability to choose what we want our future to look like.
Until now, wearables have focused on fitness and wellness but have not been directed specifically towards women’s health. It is only recently that the tech industry is starting to realize what a great advantage it is to be able to track not only fitness but women’s fertility as well (fertility apps and the recent iOS health kit update are great examples). The aspect of wearability in addition to portability is also being taken into account with the introduction of feminized elegant wearable technology.
To me, wearables should be convenient, something to look forward to putting on and showing off — a kind of accessory, fashionable, but not something you have to struggle with.
A good example of a wearable I’d be happy to wear is The LEAF by Bellabeat. The LEAF is a “health tracker” (which is the new word for activity + sleep insights). You can wear it as a bracelet, as a necklace or a clip and I personally think it is the best-looking wearable I’ve ever seen. Bellabeat claims to help track your cycle as well, but after going over some reviews, their fertility tracking feature is merely a menstrual tracking calendar-in their app! It predicts ovulation by date. To me, the fact that its ovulation tracking is rudimentary, is irresponsible for one, and pushes back the concept of tracking to the old rhythm method-instead of progressing towards accuracy through body literacy.
This past week, I was both excited and cautious witnessing the arrival of an actual new fertility tracking device called “Yono”. Yono is a wearable that tracks your temperature during sleep to find your true Basal Body Temperature. Yono is made primarily for women who track their cycle in order to get pregnant. The fact that they neither acknowledge nor promote the incredible value of BBT monitoring for body literacy per se or fertility awareness methods is unfortunate and seems like a waste of great potential.
In the past year, we’ve witnessed fertility related innovation in the form of wireless BBT thermometers working in conjunction with fertility apps such as Kindara’s Wink and Ovatemp’s Ondo. These apps are super user-friendly and well-designed and I guess the fact that the devices sync automatically with your phone, is a great solution for those of us who can’t be bothered in the morning and gives us some extra snuggling time as well…That being said, the devices still demand waking up at the same time every morning, and, at the end of the day, (or the beginning of the day in this case), they do not spare you the biggest hassle of having to wake up to use them, which in my opinion does not justify their price.
When I first began to learn about Fertility Awareness, I learned that our basal body temperature is a key indicator for ovulation and is measured first thing when we wake up (before moving). But what I’ve come to learn is that it actually occurs during the few hours of sleep BEFORE you wake up, and taking the temperature first thing in the morning is only an estimation of our true BBT. This realization has created a growing market of BBT tracking wearables that take continuous measurements throughout the night.
Not every wearable that tracks continuous temperature measurements could track BBT. If you own a Fitbit or the like, don’t even consider tracking your BBT with it — BBT thermometers and dedicated wearables are 10–100 times more accurate in measuring your temperature. Fitness trackers are made to track Fitness- their temperature measurement is good enough to calculate calorie burn, but not for measuring the minute temperature shift to pinpoint ovulation. Making a wearable device with the required accuracy is quite the challenge as it needs to measure the correct BBT whether the room temperature is at 80 degrees or at 50 degrees.
I think Yono’s attempt to address this challenge by placing their device in the ear canal is interesting and can work. But sleeping with a device inside my ear every night? Not sure this is something I’d personally look forward to do. It kind of takes me back to my childhood, when I had to stuff my ears with these ear plug thingers at the pool, and it was always very inconvenient.
In addition, they mention you should be a relatively sound sleeper to get accurate readings ( thenextweb.com). How do I know if I’m a “relatively sound sleeper”?
Well I certainly thought I was a sound sleeper, but even though I sleep like a log, I suddenly noticed that I move quite a lot during sleep, and I can really track it. For the past few months, I’ve been testing Tempdrop, following my basal body temperature and sleep quality. Just from testing it, I can say that I am constantly learning! Tracking my night trends and my sleep data empowers me in many ways. Having the basic understanding of what is going on in my body, affects my entire day. I think every woman should enjoy being able to know her cycle and by using these incredibly, accessible and funky tools, it’s not that hard anymore. It’s even fun!
I cannot wait to see what this new tech-health age will bring. The combination of the revolution in our awareness and the technological developments will liberate us in many ways. Creating a technological environment where women can actually choose how they monitor their own fertility and decide, through an accurate understanding of their own bodies, the right time to have a child is true freedom. This is why I believe we’re on the verge of the first female revolution of the 21st-century- let’s celebrate out uniqueness by learning more about our own patterns, let’s empower ourselves by understanding our body better! Come and join the fertility awareness tech movement! We can do it.
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Contributor Tal Ron is a women’s Health Activist, Sexuality and health educator and the Community Manager of Tempdrop- fertility tracking device. This article is also posted on Medium.com