Friday, September 11, 2015

Ovusense the Fertility Monitor that works! (Part 1)

A study done in Australia in 2013 by the Journal of advanced nursing found that 13% of Australian Women were unable to define their fertile window in order to support conception. This lead researchers to identify that ‘ poor fertility awareness’ is one of the contributing factors to infertility. This figure is I’m certain not just a reflection of Aussie women, but in fact also emulated all over the western world.  In my experience when I start working with women and talking to them about their own fertility knowledge this  figure seems more like 40%!

There are many other reasons for fertility issues and as a nutritionist I'm passionate about turning this over and uncovering how to bring your fertility back into balance again by changes to lifestyle, dietary suggestions and supplementation when possible.

Times definitely are a changing and I often think that my job wouldn't have been around some 50 years ago! Amazingly only a few generations ago women would have been eating foods that were right for them and seasonally based food -  this would have helped their fertility immensely. We weren't travelling huge distances, stress was less and we had more of a community to give us the support we needed from a female perspective and we learnt about our bodies through our sisters! Women back then also just seemed to know the signs and how to effectively predict and track their fertility throughout the month unlike today.  In the olden days this information was passed down from women to woman and in many traditional societies becoming a woman and knowing you can create life is a right of passage. In today's modern life where we have an app for everything, fertility is bundled up in this world . This is not a bad thing in itself as women of younger generations are learning from technology about fertility now, and we have online communities to support our issues! In other words we no longer sit round the campfire sharing knowledge as we look to the internet and technology for fertility awareness.

As a modern girl ( I hope) I try to keep up with technology and as part of my job I teach and coach women on fertility awareness. Over the years I have also tried many devices that identify your fertile window. This has included the clear blue monitor ( persona) and using ovulation predictor kits.  I also used the OvuCue for a while which I quite liked which is based on predicting ovulation based on your saliva. I’ve also tried looking at saliva ferning patterns. You name it I’ve tried it to help my clients and myself!

The most consistent method over the years I have used, is to look at body temperature as a marker of definition between follicular and luteal phases. Before testing your HcG levels, raised body temps are a real indication of pregnancy as high levels indicate a good level of progesterone, which is something that sustains a pregnancy and a hormone that will naturally raise your bodies temperature once you have ovulated. In this 2 week wait from ovulation to menstrual period, progesterone will stay high regardless of pregnancy, but will increase steadily if pregnancy occurs in the feedback loop from brain to the endocrine and reproductive cycle.

I love using BBT charting to see where I am in my cycle. It is a fabulous tool! I have to admit I am a prolific Basal Body Temperature charter in fact ‘ Hello my name is Angela and I’m addicted to BBT charting’  I have been doing this for the last 7.5 years.  Funnily enough I found out my parents also used this method to conceive all 3 of us Heaps! It’s a great method, its been used for years by so many people  and is coupled together with other methods that look at other signs of fertility like cervical position and cervical fluid to shows that your body is ready to release an egg from a follicle and that ovulation has occurred.   When I first started working with Natural Fertility Expert and Andrew Loosely who uses this method readily he was amazed how many BBT charts I had ‘under my belt’.

When it comes to supporting my clients I do walk the walk in regards to understanding fertility and your body. I have also been known to use my own charts in consultations in order to show women what to look for in terms of fertile signs in the female body. However the one thing that throws this picture into a loop is that it relies on taking a reading orally and when you are ill the picture is then out of whack as it records basal body temps which will remain high if your immune system is fighting something off!  I didn’t know how to remedy this, and if you were ill, well when it comes to this, its something to work around as a practitioner!

Until Ovusense…. I was introduced to this fertility device around a year ago. I met Robert Milnes the CEO of Ovusense UK and Kate Davies a specialist nurse brought in from her own practice Your Fertility Journey to support them at the Fertility Show in London 2014. I was at the show as part of the Natural Fertility Expert(NFE) team. This device followed the principals of BBT charting but it used core body temperature! Which made my ears prick up. This would mean that illness would not affect the reading.  When I heard this - I was hooked and approached them to trial  the device on myself this year.  Which they agreed to do and sent me out a monitor and sensor in the post as soon as we had agreed I would be trialing it! I was delighted to be trialing something which showed such promise - Hoorah bring on the temps! As a comparison – even though it isn’t as such - I used it along side the BBT charting also.

How does it work?

The monitor arrived a few months ago and weighed very little ( handy for taking it on holiday!) It also looks like very much like a mini computer, which will hold all the data you input into it. It comes with a sensor, which I think looks like a giant sperm.. or a tampon which you insert into your vagina every night. You do wash this before and after use every day and is made from the highest grade medical material so nothing sticks to it germs wise I’m guessing!

Starting the trail

You only start using the sensor after your period ends for hygiene reasons, so I waited until this was over and started using the device on day 6 of my cycle.  Apparently as the sensor is inside you it will take a temperature every 5 mins while you sleep. In reality when I mention this to some people they are horrified- but It was actually more comfortable than a scratchy tampon ( which I don’t ever use fertility peeps)

You ‘wear’ it overnight – or for at least a few hours for enough readings to be taken. When you wake, thankfully you don’t have to lie there like a corpse while you take your temp like BBT charting and you can get up immediately! Bonus if you already have kids and they wake up in the night or at 6am and bam,  You’ve lost your BBT window to take your temps!  You then take the sensor out wash it and place it back on its cradle and press the down arrow for the data to be transferred! The monitor will then use algorithms to predict your fertile window each month and after using it for 2-3 months this becomes eerily accurate as it begins to see a pattern. This pattern fitted exactly to my cervical fluid patterns also which made me feel more confident from the outset

The good thing about OvuSense – (well there are lots actually) - is it gives you a ‘Fertility Window’

 which is really handy as if you are a long term BBT chart user, you know there is never a window and as useful as it is you can miss your window if your body is ‘ off’ that month! Also OPKs can be unreliable in my view as can surge a few times in the month particularly if you have PCOS! It occurred to me that this device had many uses from a fertility perspective not least as is invaluable if you are using a sperm donor as it will give you a day or 2 notice. If getting pregnant via sex, it also means you have that prior knowledge that you have a day or 2 to get ready! I do also recommend you use other methods alongside this like cervical position and cervical fluid as this just gives you the ‘green light’ when you are already in the race with OvuSense.

I will go into more detail in part 2 about the Facebook Page that supports this app and what Ovusense picked up that my Fertility Friend didn't which was very exciting!