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The Military, and Plenty of Women, Want This High Tech Intravaginal Ring

The Priya ring, a core-temperature-tracking smart fertility ring, is now available through Indiegogo.

You know your intravaginal ring is one-of-a-kind when even the military is trying to get its hands on it.

"The Department of Defense has shown some interest in using this to predict heat stroke in female troops on the frontlines," said Lauren Costantini, the founder and CEO of Prima-Temp, the manufacturer of the Priya ring. I reached out to the Department of Defense to confirm, and a spokesperson told me the DoD has a lot of labs doing all kinds of research, so it's hard to say for sure but someone definitely could have inquired about the ring.

The Priya ring—previously dubbed the Bloom ring—is a small, flexible ring filled with delicate temperature sensors that is inserted into the vagina. The Priya monitors the internal, core temperature of the wearer's body to detect a subtle dip in temperature that occurs 48 hours before a woman ovulates: the window when she is most likely to get pregnant. The ring syncs with a companion smartphone app to let the wearer (and, if desired, the wearer's partner) keep tabs on her temperature and know exactly when she's most likely to conceive.

Screengrabs from the Priya app. Images courtesy Prima-Temp.

The Priya first debuted at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Prima-Temp has spent the last few months putting the ring through testing and fine-tuning to make sure it meets the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission. Now that it's past all the requirements, customers (and, I guess, the DoD) can get their hands on the device through an Indiegogo campaign starting Thursday.

"We're excited to finally be launching it," Costantini told me over the phone. "I've been getting emails regularly since CES from women asking 'How can I get this? Where can I get this? I'm trying to get pregnant right now.'"

When Prima-Temp starts selling the device online (probably by mid-December, Costantini says), it will cost $150, while the Indiegogo Priyas start at $99. It's still a pricey investment: each ring can only be worn for one month at a time, so if you're trying to get pregnant it may mean shelling out for multiple rings. The Indiegogo campaign will have an option to buy discounted multipacks—three for $279 or 10 for $879—for just this reason.

But compared to the cost of some fertility treatments—one round of in vitro costs $12,500 on average—the Priya is a bargain and, as the DoD has illustrated, the device could have uses beyond trying to pinpoint the best time to get knocked up. Costantini said a lot of potential consumers have told her they want to use it for family planning. The Priya is by no means a contraceptive, and the rhythm method isn't a highly reliable form of birth control, but it's a way to make the method more precise if that's what you're using anyway.

Since the Priya isn't for sale yet (the Indiegogo devices will be shipped in December, Costantini said), the company doesn't yet have a lot of user data on the effectiveness of the product. But studies have shown that timing is everything when it comes to conception. One study from the 1990s showed couples had a 33 percent chance of conceiving if they had sex on the day of ovulation, versus 10 percent if they got it on five days before ovulation (I know it's old, but this study is still widely referenced in more current literature). And more recent (albeit smaller) studies have shown using temperature to pinpoint that two-day window before ovulation is particularly useful.

The DoD isn't the only third party interested in the device; Costantini said medical researchers are keen to test it out as a possible disease detection tool and sports researchers want to see if they can use it for training—studies have shown regulating core temperature can improve athletic performance. But for now, Prima-Temp is just focused on fertility, and hopes to be able to report some user-data "Priya baby" numbers next year.

"We have a little section in the app that asks, 'Did you take a pregnancy test? Was it positive?'" Costantini said. "Certainly once it's out there, we'll be collecting pregnancy data."