These technologies are a beacon of hope for those who want to start their families.
Just last year, when the Roe vs Wade judgment was revered in the United States, a lot of news websites covered its implications. There were discussions about how data from period trackers could be used to build abortion cases against women, effectively controlling their fertility and their rights over their bodies.
While this is a major demerit of using period/fertility trackers, it is only one of the many ways in which technology has impacted fertility. If you are curious to learn more, here are some of the many positive applications of tech in improving fertility rates.
Yes, even though this can be held against you in places where abortions are banned, ovulation trackers are beneficial to those who want to have children. Ovulation is the process where the ovaries release an egg. It usually happens in the middle of a menstrual cycle, which is when the body has the highest chance to conceive a child. So, those looking to get pregnant need to know in advance when they are ovulating.
By documenting the beginning and end of your periods, period trackers can tell you when you might start ovulating. Besides, it can also help you track changes in your menstrual cycle, such as spotting or irregular bleeding, so that you know exactly what to consult your doctor about. Alternatively, if you don’t want to get pregnant, you can even use fertility apps to give you reminders to take your birth control medication.
If you want to track your ovulation more accurately, consider using ovulation testing kits. These tests detect a rise in luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine, which signals the release of an egg from your ovary and is therefore an accurate predictor of ovulation.
Technology has made it possible for women to preserve their eggs, thereby giving them the ability to get pregnant later in their lives. This method of preserving fertility is especially beneficial for women who need to get treated for conditions such as cancer, which can adversely affect fertility. The process of egg freezing has three steps—
- Ovulation induction: The ovaries are stimulated via synthetic hormones to ensure that they produce multiple eggs.
- Egg retrieval: In this stage, an ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina, and the eggs are extracted.
- Egg freezing: Finally, the eggs are put under sub-zero temperatures so that all biological activity comes to a halt. At this stage, substances called cryoprotectants are used to prevent the formation of ice crystals inside the egg from the drop in temperature.
Just like egg freezing, there are also procedures for freezing sperm. This process is typically used to help men protect their fertility if they are suffering from cancer or have to undergo orchiectomy (removal of the testicles) which can prevent any sperm from being produced in the future. This frozen sperm can also be donated to help someone else conceive children. The process of freezing sperm is as follows—
- In the first step, the person attempting to freeze their sperm is put through an infectious disease screening. This is done to make sure that they don’t have any sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis, which could contaminate another person’s samples. This means that if you have these conditions, your sperm can still be frozen.
- Then, you would be asked to provide a sperm sample that would be mixed with a cryoprotectant and then frozen by being plunged into liquid nitrogen. The sample is typically divided into multiple parts so that if there are any problems with one of them, another one can be used. Unlike frozen eggs, which have only been known to only result in pregnancy up to 14 years of being frozen, sperm can be frozen indefinitely.
Prenatal genetic testing
Prenatal genetic testing is a powerful tool for detecting hereditary conditions, such as hemophilia and cystic fibrosis, as well as congenital conditions, such as Down syndrome and spina bifida (a condition where the spinal cord doesn’t fully develop in the womb). By identifying potential health issues in the fetus, doctors can make important decisions about the pregnancy and help parents prepare in advance for a special needs child. It also helps parents make informed decisions about their pregnancy and better understand the potential risks and outcomes.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF)
IVF is an assisted reproductive technology where the eggs are fertilized outside the body and then implanted in the uterus to initiate pregnancy. This process is commonly used by couples who are dealing with conditions such as endometriosis (a condition where cells resembling the lining of the uterus are present outside of it), low sperm count and damaged fallopian tubes. It can also be used to prevent genetic disorders since the fertilized egg can be tested for abnormalities before being implanted.
Today, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are being incorporated in IVF treatment to enhance the chances of success. Endocrinologists can use AI to study the health of the embryo with greater accuracy. For instance, Fairtility, an IVF treatment provider, has created an AI model called CHLOE that is trained on over 200,000 embryo videos to improve the selection of embryos for IVF treatment.
Conception aids are tools that can assist in achieving pregnancy. One such aid available in the market today is FERTI·LILY’s hormone-free conception cup, which is designed to improve the chances of pregnancy by helping sperm cells last longer so that more of them will enter the uterus and reach the egg. After intercourse, the cup can be inserted into the vagina to keep the sperm close to the cervix. Moreover, the company has developed a conception gel that helps tackle vaginal dryness, thereby enhancing a couple’s sexual experience.
At-home fertility tests
Hertility, a health tech company, has developed an at-home testing kit that gives women insights into their reproductive health. The tests can detect hormone levels, which are often indicators of conditions like polycystic ovarian disorder (PCOD) and menopause. Based on these results, the company also provides guidance on what steps the user should take to address any issues.
Overall, it is undeniable that technology has opened up new avenues in the field of fertility and has significantly improved the chances of success for those seeking to start a family. However, it is important to remember that technology isn’t a cure-all for infertility. For example, the chances of a frozen egg leading to a live birth are only between 2-12%. Similarly, prenatal tests can be inaccurate, and IVF treatments can lead to multiple births, premature delivery and low birth weight.
Also, as we discussed at the beginning of the article, fertility tracker data can be used against you. Ultimately, if you are considering any of these treatments or tools, it is important to be well-informed about the potential benefits and risks and to work closely with medical professionals to make the best decisions for your reproductive health.
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Header image courtesy of Envato