An estimated 1.2 million women are trying to get pregnant and struggling. What if technology could help? That’s the question Vanessa Xi, founder of Yono labs, asked after she struggled with fertility issues. Her invention: an in-ear thermometer you sleep with.
First let’s back up and look at the way women currently determine their window of fertility each month. Basal body temperature is the lowest temperature your body reaches each day. It happens while you sleep.
Each month, when a woman ovulates, her basal body temperature rises between .4 and 1 degree and remains at that higher temperature until her period. When you chart your basal body temperature for a few months you start to see the pattern of when you are ovulating. You may realize that exactly 12 days after you start your period, your temperature rises. The day before that temperature rises is the optimal window to try and get pregnant.
Traditional methods of taking your basal body temperature sound simple but are actually tough to execute. You need to set an alarm and take your temperature at that same time every day before you get out of bed. As soon as you get up or start moving around the body heats up and the basal body temperature is lost.
Hillary Yeager, who tracked her basal body temperature the traditional way using a thermometer in the mouth, described how involved the process became for her, and said it made her anxious.
“I was obsessive and a crazy person, my husband can attest to this,” the 36-year-old Nashville resident said. “I made a point to go to bed at the same time every day, I did set an alarm to wake up at the same time every day. I made sure I slept with the right amount of covers … So there wasn't anything that could possibly affect the temperature and made sure that there wasn't anything that could possibly throw my temperature off.“
But tracking ovulation works for many and Yeager and her 33-year-old husband, Don, now have a 2-year-old daughter, Emmaline.
I had my own struggles with fertility and charting this data was tough. I worked on a morning show so my wake up times were erratic, remembering to leave the thermometer out and to take my temp before getting up were a challenge given my groggy state at bed times and wake ups. I failed at the job of charting my ovulation.
So the question -- can technology in the age of wearables help? The Yono is a wearable thermometer you put in your ear when you go to bed. It continuously monitors your ambient temperature. ABC’s Dr. Jen Ashton says ear temperature measurement typically gives a more stable temperature than an underarm or mouth reading. In the morning users put the thermometer back in the docking station which then relays the information to an app on your phone.
I tried the Yono (but didn’t sleep with it in); it was comfortable and unobtrusive. Personally I’d much prefer this method to the analog version described above.
The device is currently only a prototype, and the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $149, according to the Kickstarter page. The Yono will be available for purchase in October.
Yono Labs say they also plan to have a lease program for less that allows women four month’s access to the device for half the price.
Yono plans to be listed as an FDA class 1 device, a classification that does not require FDA approval but is monitored by the FDA. There is no research available to confirm the company's claims about the Yono.