Local Startup Empowers Women to Address Infertility Issues

Although women have miscarriages more often than you might think, Amy Beckley, Boulder resident, scientist, and inventor of Proov™, experienced seven of them. Now on a mission to open conversations about infertility, she wants women to know they are not alone and to empower them with the information they need about hormones to improve their chances to carry their pregnancies to term.

Her Story

In her 20s, Amy spent her time in college, followed by graduate school, where she earned her PhD in Pharmacology. Then she met Jason one morning, who was to be her husband just a few years later. Both had steady jobs and wanted to have children. After many tries, Amy became pregnant, but just five weeks into the pregnancy, she suffered her first loss. Naturally, she was devastated, and would go on to suffer four more first-trimester pregnancy losses over the next two years.

“I was exasperated and depressed,” said Amy. “I then made an appointment with a local fertility clinic and the doctor told me that my chance of conception each month would be less than 10 percent, or I could launch immediately into IVF, which has a 70-80 percent chance of success. After I’d suffered for nearly three years, I decided to pursue IVF right away. I wanted a baby so badly and didn’t want to put myself through more months of pain and suffering.”

However, IVF was no pleasure cruise.

“It was horrible because it was so long and drawn out,” she added. “You have to wait for a month, then go on birth control for a month. You have to give yourself injections, miss work for blood samples; you get bruises. Fortunately my clinic was just 20 minutes from work and I had more flexibility, but I was visiting the clinic eight times a month.”

She’d never felt so bloated and hyper-extended. She had to limit physical activity, stay on bed rest at times, and was on an emotional roller coaster.

Not only is IVF an invasive, painful, and emotional process, it’s costly. For just one cycle, IVF in the Denver metro area can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000.

After one failed IVF cycle, she and Jason tried once more, and it worked. Throughout the entire pregnancy, she was worried because she thought she might miscarry again. She would sit down every evening and use a fetal dopplar device to listen to her baby’s heart beat which gave her peace of mind.

To her immense delight, she gave birth to a son nine months later. Once her son was well into toddlerhood, Amy and Jason decided they wanted their son to have a sibling, but Amy knew she didn’t want to go through another round of IVF.

Stepping Back and Learning about Her Body

As a pharmacologist, Amy decided to understand what her body was telling her. She carefully tracked her menstrual cycle, during which time she experienced yet another miscarriage. After that sixth loss, and through her detective work, she suspected her problem was a progesterone deficiency. She took her information to the doctor, and despite his initial skepticism, he prescribed her a $200 progesterone supplement. After just a few cycles, she conceived and successfully held the pregnancy to term. Her daughter, and “progesterone miracle”, was delivered and is now five years old and thriving.

In order to figure out that she might have a progesterone deficiency, Amy tracked her temperature and ovulation; this information suggested that she might not be producing enough progesterone, which is known as the Luteal phase defect. Although she was ovulating, progesterone is not high enough or present long enough to allow the embryo to properly implant in the uterus.

After her daughter was born, Amy began to tell people her story. Family and friends began to get in touch, asking what she had done to carry her pregnancies to term. She got a call from a friend who had Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is a condition where ovaries develop follicles but ovulation rarely occurs and the eggs don’t get released as they should each month. She saw the value of a progesterone test to help women with PCOS confirm if they were ovulating, so Amy donned her science hat, conducted research, and found there was no product on the market to address this need.

That led to crowdfunding, and after feasibility studies, she and her friend discovered they needed $50,000 to create a progesterone test. Amy approached online groups, and was funded within 48 hours. That enabled Amy to create the Proov test in her basement.

“I knew how much I’d suffered, and if I could keep other women from experiencing the same pain, I wanted to figure it out,” said Amy. “Proov lets women measure progesterone, a hormone critical for ovulation, through a simple, at-home progesterone test. All it takes is a first morning urine sample, a five-second strip dip, a five-minute wait, and an easy read of the lines. One line is positive, two is negative.”

The test helps women to understand their progesterone levels and get one step closer to uncovering what might be the cause of their infertility. This empowers them to advocate for themselves with their doctors.  

After her friend and partner was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had to step away, Amy wondered if her business would continue to be viable if run solo, so she began going through the investor circuit, investigating biotech firms. She connected with two people and in 2018 named the test Proov, developed new branding and messaging, and with three employees who take advantage of outsourcing, the company is profitable.

Visions for the Future

Looking forward to the years ahead, Amy wants to educate women on progesterone as it relates to other issues as well. Currently her focus is on infertility, but she knows the first thing to go away during menopause is progesterone, so she’s looking into its role and use that information to help women transition.

“I want to give women options,” she said. “We’re much more infertile now than in the past. Lots of millennials are on hormonal birth control but those have been found to cause depression, infertility, blood clots, and cancer. It’s all about educating women to understand their cycles.”

Feedback from customers has been positive. One woman was trying to get her doctor to realize her problem. After taking the Proov test, which showed she had a progesterone deficiency, she returned to her doctor with the results, and got the right help.

Another woman, age 39, decided that after her first miscarriage, she wanted to do all she could to be healthy, conceive and carry to term. She used the Proov test for peace of mind and to reduce stress knowing she was doing all she could.

Proov Wins Awards

In March, 2019, Proov beat 24 other innovative start-up companies across the country in a competitive pitch slam to win the 2019 Startup Night SXSW. In addition, Amy and the Proov team won a fast-track spot to compete at the seventh annual Startup of the Year competition which will take place this fall. Recently, Proov became a finalist in the Fourth Annual Best of Baby Tech Awards at CES® 2019, and a winner in the Parents Best Family Tech Award at CES 2019.

When asked what advice she would give to women struggling with infertility, she recommends they visit their doctor to ask questions, and ultimately, follow their heart and gut even if the doctor is skeptical.

“If we can give women the tools and resources they need, they will be more informed and able to find better solutions,” added Amy. “It’s like driving a car or riding a bike; you have to take the right roads to avoid traffic.”

National Infertility Week takes place April 21-28, 2019. The theme is “Uncovered,” bringing access to infertility solutions for women who need it.

For more information about Proov, visit: https://proovtest.com/

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