Can a fertility tracking bracelet help women with irregular cycles become pregnant?
A clinical trial conducted by the medical technology company Ava and the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland hopes to shed light on that question.
The trial will monitor the use of Ava’s cycle-tracking bracelet in 50 women with highly irregular menstrual cycles, including women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
The bracelet uses sensor technology and clinically tested algorithms to detect the window of time in which the user is fertile.
“It measures various noninvasive parameters, which are related to the hormonal cycle and ensure high measurement quality,” Dr. Brigitte Leeners, lead investigator of the trial and a professor of reproductive endocrinology at University of Zurich, told Healthline.
The bracelet is already available for use in women whose cycles are 24 to 35 days long.
The new trial will assess its potential use in women whose cycles fall outside that range.
“We have quite a large databank on normal cycles,” Leeners said, “and now we will use our algorithm with the aim of achieving a comparable prediction quality in irregular cycles.”
Ava is also studying the potential use of its cycle-tracking bracelet as a nonhormonal contraceptive device.
Advantages over other methods
Ava’s cycle-tracking bracelet is designed to be worn every night.
Its sensor technology collects data about the user’s skin temperature, pulse rate, breathing rate, movement, sleep patterns, and other physiological parameters.
This data is transferred to an application on the user’s phone, where it is tracked and analyzed to detect their fertile window.
“When you go to sleep, you put on the bracelet, and we get more than 3 million data points per night,” Leeners explained.
“This is different than other methods where you measure temperature just once. With this method, you have a whole series of data of different vital signs, which improves your prediction quality,” she added.
Women who use the more traditional temperature method of cycle tracking take their temperature when they wake up each morning to track surges associated with ovulation.
If they have a regular cycle, they can use this data to predict when they will be most fertile, in the two to three days before their temperature rises.
But for women with irregular cycles, this older method is less reliable.
Leeners hopes that Ava’s cycle-tracking bracelet will offer those women a more dependable tool for determining when they are fertile.
Helping women with PCOS
The participants in this clinical trial will include women with PCOS, a common cause of menstrual irregularities and female infertility.
“It’s one of the very common causes of infertility, and it’s something that women don’t always hear about until they come up with a fertility issue,” Dr. Kathleen Wyne, an endocrinologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, PCOS affects an estimated 8 to 20 percent of reproductive-age women around the world.
While the exact cause is unknown, certain genes likely play a role.
“Women who have PCOS often have problems getting pregnant, and once they do get pregnant, they’re more likely to have a miscarriage, especially in the first or second trimester,” Wyne said.
Women with PCOS are also at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy.
To help them manage these challenges and risks, Wyne encourages women with PCOS who are interested in becoming pregnant to see a medical specialist.
“I would actually advise them to see a specialist who has a particular interest in PCOS and, if possible, at an integrated center, where you have [specialists in] medical endocrinology, reproductive endocrinology, and gynecology all working together,” she said.
For patients with PCOS who are overweight, losing weight may help improve the regularity of their cycles and chances of getting pregnant.
In some cases, doctors prescribe clomiphene citrate, metformin, or other medications to improve menstrual patterns and stimulate ovulation in women with PCOS.
Advances in cycle tracking technologies might also help some women with PCOS maximize their chances of conceiving.
“When I trained, all we could do was the basal body temperature,” Wyne said, “but now, you’ve got some really cool technologies that can track your temperature and other things while you sleep, send it to an app, and tell you your patterns.”