Early study results suggest wrist-worn wearable could detect pregnancy

By Jonah Comstock
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Preliminary results from a large clinical trial suggest that Ava Health’s fertility detecting wearable could someday be used to detect pregnancy. The research, conducted at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, was presented this week at the annual conference of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

“We started Ava with the intention of looking at physiological parameters to detect the fertile window of the woman,” Lea von Bidder, president and VP marketing at Ava Health, told MobiHealthNews. “Doing that research we realized that there’s more to that then we thought of initially. We started looking at additional aspects of a woman’s reproductive life that we could potentially look at through the lens of looking at physiological data to understand the underlying reasons for that. And one thing that has been really interesting to us has been pregnancy detection.”

Ava’s wearable, which is worn at night only, detects nine different vital signs chosen because they’re impacted by fertility cycles. The research looked at data from the device over the course of 44 conceptive cycles and 467 non-conceptive cycles. They found statistically significant differences in pulse rate, breathing rate, heart rate variability, and temperature, all in the late luteal phase of the cycle — before a woman would even notice a missed period.

Von Bidder was quick to stress that Ava Health is in the very early stages of research, and won’t be marketing a pregnancy-detection wearable any time soon. But nor did she rule it out as part of the company’s far-future roadmap.

“It is a preliminary result, it’s not something that we can bring into the product right now, but it is something we’re potentially interested in and we could easily imagine integrating into it at a later point,” she said.

Pregnancy detection via a wearable, if it proved to be accurate and reliable, would be a huge shake-up of the status quo. Currently, home pregnancy tests tend to be urine-based and are active, rather than passive, tests.

“There are so many things in women’s health that go way back to the generation that our mothers were in or even their mothers and no one ever questions,” von Bidder said. “No one questions if we should use urine tests for home pregnancy tests. That was always the given thing and I think no one looks at that and says ‘Oh actually that’s quite inconvenient’. And it really is. The interesting thing here is we see digital health and other wearables potentially moving in the direction of replacing products that have been there for a very long time, or working in conjunction with them. … It shows us the potential that wearables have and it shows the potential that digital health has in the women’s health space.”