This High Tech Intravaginal Ring Could Save Women Thousands of Dollars
The Bloom Ring can help women looking to conceive...and those who want to avoid it.
A Bloom Ring, left, and a transparent version showing the sensors, right. Photo: Kaleigh Rogers/Motherboard
At first glance, the Bloom Ring doesn't look very high tech. The white, flexible ring fits in the palm of your hand and sort of looks like an extra-thick hair tie. But inside the ring are sensitive temperature sensors that, when inserted into the vagina, monitor the core temperature of a woman's body to pinpoint the 48 hour window each month just before she ovulates when she is most likely to get pregnant. Conveniently, the sensors then send an alert to the woman's smartphone. It's family planning for the iPhone generation.
Using temperature to monitor a woman's fertility cycle isn't a new concept—women hoping to conceive have been tracking their temperatures for generations.
"Right now when women are trying to track their temperature to get pregnant, they wake up in the morning at the same time, take their temperature and they chart it. They're looking for this increase in temperature that occurs right after they've ovulated," said Lauren Costantini, the founder and CEO of Prima-Temp, the manufacturer of Bloom Ring. But this process is a bit imprecise, she told me.
"Once they've confirmed that temperature, they've already ovulated for that month," she said. "They can't conceive that month very well and so they extrapolate that to next month."
The Bloom Ring instead looks for a very subtle dip in core temperature that occurs before ovulation, giving enough notice to take advantage of a woman's most fertile period.
Intravaginal rings that contain medication—contraception or hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause, for example—have been on the market for a few years, but this is the first tech-infused product to hit the market.
Since there are no pharmaceuticals involved, women won't need a prescription to use the Bloom Ring. They can order a ring, which can be used for up to one month, online later this year and eventually pick it up in their local drug store. The rings are inserted and removed by hand, with no need for a trip to the doctor or surgery. Though the price point isn't set yet, Costantini said a single Bloom Ring will cost about $150.
It may seem steep for a smart thermometer, but when you consider that couples in the US are seeking fertility treatment at a record rate, one round of which costs an average of $12,400 and is usually not covered by insurance, $150 sounds a lot more reasonable.
"It's also for women who are younger and don't have any fertility problems, but their life is very scheduled. They want to have control over their fertility," Costantini said during a panel at CES, where Bloom Ring was unveiled.
The device can also be used as a form of natural contraception: instead of jumping into bed when at their most fertile, women can avoid it. It's the "high tech rhythm method," as Costantini put it (though it's important to note the rhythm method isn't a highly effective form of birth control).
And she hopes the ring could eventually be used for a variety of other functions:
"We can put everything that's on a FitBit on here: heart rate, calories, accelerometer," she told me.
With hardware for wearable device sensors and software for analysing the data your body emits constantly evolving, a little intravaginal ring could offer up a host of new technology possibilities.
"The vaginal vault is a really interesting orifice, if I may say so, and we don't really take advantage of all it has to offer," she said.