When I first moved to San Francisco in the early twenty-teens, a few friends and I started a google doc to support our “VC-funded Life.” As tech-savvy start up employees with more options than dollars, we were well-positioned to take advantage of the eCommerce and Gig economy. We tried all the start ups dedicated to making sure we never had to leave our couches - and appreciated all the VC dollars that were used to fund customer acquisition.
A few years later, my time in SF has outlasted some of those companies (RIP Sprig, Washio), and my needs have changed. As the pool of founders has aged as well, many have shifted their focus to serve the potentially procreating. As a result, when my husband and I decided to embark on the journey to parenthood, we found a new landscape of apps, services, products to make getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and becoming parents as seamless as possible.
As I’ve gone through this pregnancy, I’ve chronicled all the tools, tricks, devices and services that we’ve used. We’ve been incredibly fortunate - we conceived easily, had a low-risk pregnancy resulting in a healthy baby, received the best medical care through insurance, and are in a position where I can take maternity leave. We recognize that this is not the case for everyone, so this series reflects only one couple’s perspective on the journey to baby.
Deciding to start “trying” is quite a mental switch. All of a sudden you go from having spent the last 10+ years of your life trying desperately not to become a parent to becoming hyper-focused on your reproductive activity. Depending on your proactiveness, this process can start well before you decide to start trying. For those who may be a couple years out from parenthood there are a range of new at-home fertility tests for both men and women. Men can take what TechCrunch recently called a “sperm health selfie” (oy) through companies like Yo and Trak. Women can check their ovarian reserves through Modern Fertility, EverlyWell and Future Family. And while there has recently been some debate as to the value of these tests as an indicator of future success, the movement towards giving people information on their reproductive health more regularly helps start the conversation about fertility - for both genders - at an earlier stage. There are also more specialty tests, like Dot Lab’s endometriosis test, to help identify conditions that may impact fertility.
If you take the tests and decide that you want to take steps like proactively freezing your eggs, there are start-ups for that too (Prelude Fertility and Progyny, as well as local boutique clinics and larger private equity-owned groups). There are also companies like Carrot who will not only help you freeze your eggs but get your tech employer to pay for it. And there are a growing set of online resources, like FertilityIQ, to help you navigate the process.
For couples who are actively attempting to conceive, physicians do not generally recommend such testing until six months to a year of trying. Instead, our only pre-baby tests were from Counsyl, which helps Ashkenazi Jews like my husband and I ensure we did not come from the same shtetl. Most of our focus was instead on the best way to track the all-important, slightly mysterious ovulation cycle. There are no shortage of apps to help you understand your cycle (Flo, Clue, Eve by Glow, Period Tracker, Natural Cycle) and help you get pregnant (those as well as Glow, Ovia). Typically, they have you chart, record your basal body temperature (perhaps through a bluetooth-enabled thermometer like Kinsa), test your levels of an ovulation-related hormone through a urine test, and even check your cervical muscus. After a couple of weeks of this morning routine, we switched to using the Ava bracelet, which is basically a fitbit for fertility that tracks a similar set of biometrics to predict your fertile window. Within a couple of months, our Ava was retired (they have since launched a pregnancy options and are adding metrics to make it more useful during those nine months) and we were on our way.
Still, one part of the process has not been disrupted yet. We still found out about our BFP (big fat positive, in Mommyboard speak) by peeing on a stick, even if it arrived through Amazon Prime. (Of course, in the month or so since I wrote this, Lia launched a flushable pregnancy test).
Interested? Stay tuned for Part 2: Information and Appointment Overload in the First Trimester