Silicon Valley Takes on Challenges of Fertility with Simple, Affordable Testing Solutions

Silicon Valley fertility testing

A Silicon Valley startup called Modern Fertility has started selling a $199 at-home testing kit for fertility which provides all of the conveniences offered by other fertility testing. Women interested in testing their fertility can order the kit online, draw a finger-prick blood and mail it back to a lab where it is analyzed for nine hormones associated with ovarian reserve and reproductive health.

After spending two years working as a product manager at 23andMe, the mail-order genetic testing company, California native Afton Vechery launched Modern Fertility last year along with co-founder Carly Leahy. Her startup has already raised $7 million in venture capital.

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Vechery said she decided to found Modern Fertility after she became frustrated about the current fertility testing system which is very confusing and expensive.

What’s wrong with the current fertility testing system?

Currently, women who are trying to get pregnant need to select an infertility clinic from the 500 located in the U.S. Then, they are required to provide documentation that they’ve been trying to conceive for at least 9-12 months and often pay for physical exams, multiple appointments, and series of invasive tests that can cost more than $1,000.

“If you’re like me, curious about your fertility and planning for the future but not ready to have kids, it’s almost impossible to break through the barriers of healthcare. This is because there is no concept of ‘fertility’ in our healthcare system—only ‘infertility,’” she says.

Others Jumping on the Bandwagon

There are several other startups encouraging younger women to consider their fertility as well. Opionato, launched in 2016, is a new digital platform offering fertility advice.

Silicon Valley fertility testing
Photo: Mira Fertility

There are other products that claim to bring health technology to women hoping to conceive right away. Earlier this year, Bay Area-based Mira Fertility launched a ovulation tracker for only $100. The small palm-sized device pairs with a smartphone and uses disposable wands to measure levels of Luteinizing hormone in morning urine. The information is stored in the app which uses a proprietary algorithm to predict ovulation over time.

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Another firm, Early Sense, created a $199 disc that can be slipped under a mattress and capture data such as breathing, heart, and movement during sleep. The data is then incorporated into a smartphone app, which predicts a six-day “fertile” window for women hoping to conceive. Other devices claim to predict ovulation offers wrist wearable, or an armpit temperature sensor, or an earbud.

There are other companies offering blood tests. Egg-Q, launched in 2016, sells a test that measures AMH (a hormone related to ovarian reserve) levels for $249. Another company, called Let’s Get Checked, offers the same test for $139.

It’s not clear if all these devices work any better than the old-fashioned methods, or if they work at all. Mary Jane Minkin, an OB/GYN and clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, say of the devices:

“If they’re accurate, great, but I don’t know why you’d need an app to do this.”