Wednesday 21 August 2019

End of pregnancy test as new smartwatch will tell if you conceive

Stock photo
Stock photo

Henry Bodkin

The traditional home pregnancy test could soon be obsolete, scientists have said, as they announced a new smartwatch system that alerts women when they conceive.

Trials in Switzerland have allowed researchers to identify for the first time a package of minute physiological changes, detectable by existing hardware, that take place when pregnancy starts.

They are now building an algorithm which learns the individual wearer's personal characteristics so it could not only signal the start of a pregnancy, but also highlight the best windows in which to try for a baby.

The technology promises to allow women to do away with the morning ritual of a home pregnancy test, which assesses levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hcg) in urine.

The team behind the Ava bracelet, which is expected to cost around €225, plan to begin real-world tests of the system before the end of the year.

Presenting their research at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual congress in Texas, they described the subtle changes in skin temperature, breathing rate, pulse and heart rate variability, that occur when a women conceives.


They found a pulse variation of just 2.1 beats per minute, as well as a 0.2C change in skin temperature, was indicative of the onset of pregnancy, probably due to hormonal changes involving progesterone and oestrogen. The smartwatch is able to detect pregnancy around a week after conception, the same as the most sensitive pregnancy test.

In the future, it may be able to detect conception sooner, the developers believe.

Mohaned Shilaih, senior researcher at University Hospital Zurich, said: "Rather than waking up every morning and trying to pee on a stick to detect the rise in hcg, you would simply have the bracelet worn both night and day."

He described the standard method as "physiologically tedious" for women, adding: "This would partly take away this kind of pressure."

The Zurich researchers said the machine learning system would be continuously developed to monitor women during pregnancy, potentially providing early warning of serious conditions such as pre-eclampsia, which can force doctors to induce premature birth.

Hcg was first discovered to be linked to the fertilisation of eggs in the 1930s, however it was not until the 1970s that home-testing kits became widely available.

The Ava bracelet technology is not expected to provide an earlier indication of pregnancy than the current home-testing method because both ultimately rely on the same package of hormones being released.

The algorithm is already being used in an existing Ava device to indicate when best to try for a baby.

Irish Independent

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