At Blood & Milk, we’re huge fans of choices when it comes to women’s health. And we all know it’s easier to make the best decisions for ourselves when we have access to relevant information, which is why we love Modern Fertility. Since the fem care brand launched in 2017 with its signature hormone test, the team, led by co-founders Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy, has been on a mission to provide people with ovaries insight into their bodies, cycles, and fertility. This week, Modern Fertility launched its latest suite of products—ovulation tests, pregnancy tests, and a fertility tracking app. We spoke with Afton about the launch and how these new products are empowering women through data and education.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
The industry’s standard ovulation test doesn’t work for 1 in 10 women. Can you explain this finding and what MF’s ovulation test does differently?
In our community, something weird kept coming up: Ovulation tests just don’t work for me. That’s strange, right? When you think of other products in other categories, you wouldn’t think, oh I bought it but it doesn’t work—that’s not something we’d accept. So, we dug into the research and found that there are basically two ways to measure ovulation: the threshold-based test, which measures LH (luteinizing hormone) in your urine and tells you if it’s above or below a specific threshold (typically set at 25 MIUs) and above means you’re ovulating, below means you’re not. That can be an issue since our bodies are so unique, some women never hit that threshold so they’ll never get a positive test, so this isn’t the most reliable method for recognizing LH level. The other way to measure is a semi-quantitative test, which actually measures the amount of LH in your urine. This is the type of test Modern Fertility launched. Instead of a binary yes or no, we tell you the actual value, so you’re able to actually track those levels and see how your LH changes and what that surge looks like. If you’re tracking ovulation to find your fertile window, instead of getting a yes or no, you gain more insight into your cycle.
For women looking to get pregnant within the year, when do you recommend purchasing ovulation strips and really starting to track diligently within the app?
It depends. I have girlfriends who are actively trying to conceive and I was so excited to share our ovulation tests and they were like, nah, it’s OK, give me a couple months—and that’s totally fine! I have other friends who want kids in two years who are like, I’m getting my IUD out and I want to track ovulation starting that day to see when I ovulate. When we took a step back and started researching ovulation, I had no idea there were certain days of the month you could get pregnant. I hadn’t received that education in high school and college and wasn’t aware that you only have certain fertile days. You can understand from your period typically when ovulation might occur, but this takes that insight a step further. We also wanted to make sure purchasing the strips was accessible—for 20 ovulation strips, it’s $16/. We wanted to create a product so that you could start your journey no matter where you are [at a low cost] and then have a completely free app so you could start tracking and logging your ovulation strips whenever you wanted.
There are tons of period tracking apps out there, but Modern Fertility’s app can also be used for women not trying to get pregnant. Why would you recommend your app over others on the market?
We know that a lot of women use period trackers and this can become a cumbersome process when trying to conceive because it’s a new set of data. It felt important to have one place to go for tracking your entire journey—start with cycle tracking so you have your home base. With your app, you also have the ability to participate in research. You can consent to let your anonymized data be part of research to improve women’s health so we can collaborate with other researchers and move this space forward. This means participating in something that helps you understand your own body but also help your friends, sisters, future children, etc.
Education—through webinars and MF’s Slack channel—seems to be a huge pillar of what your company stands for. Are there any questions or concerns you get time and time again?
One in six couples has trouble getting pregnant and women are waiting until later than any other generation—the average age of first birth in major metro cities is 31. Women are rising to new levels of power and authority and we know this will continue to be the trend, but our biology is still the same. We don’t have the healthcare or education systems that are fully equipped to meet the needs of the modern woman. I want Modern Fertility to be that clinically neutral home base to start that conversation about reproductive health so women can think about [fertility] proactively and not reactively. You see questions but also women who have been through it and are sharing their experiences with other women—that dialogue is so powerful. It’s in listening to our community that we heard ovulation products weren’t working for 1 in 10 women, and that’s ridiculous. Anyone who buys an ovulation test or pregnancy test has free access to the Modern Fertility community and can engage in our doctor Q&As and webinars.
What’s one thing you wish all women knew going into their fertility/pregnancy journey?
The biggest thing is really that your reproductive health is a part of your overall health, but really you have to do more to understand it than looking at outside features like how much yoga you do or how much green juice you drink. You could be incredibly healthy yet your fertility could be on a different page. The one thing I say to literally anyone I meet is, know there is more you can do to understand your hormones. We can support you in that learning process.
Lastly, can you tell me more about Modern Fertility’s pregnancy tests, which you also just launched?
From the research we did, all pregnancy tests in the U.S. (if it’s FDA-registered) are pretty much the same. We wanted to make an accessibly priced test but also didn’t want to make assumptions about why you were buying it. Time to conception can be very long [so a negative test is a negative experience] and then there are unplanned pregnancies—so it’s a neutral space. Community and education also comes for free as an add-on to our pregnancy tests. Oh, and they’re also adorable.