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When it comes to pain and pregnancy, most believe labor is the apex of agony. But women who struggle with infertility might argue the real anguish occurs before they conceive. Erie’s Amy Beckley is one of them. After two years of trying to get pregnant and several miscarriages, she and her husband turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF). Although it was costly and invasive, it worked—about a year and nine months after starting IVF, their first son was born.
Beckley wanted a second child but knew she couldn’t endure the financial, physical, and emotional tolls of IVF again. In her search for other solutions, Beckley, who has a Ph.D. in pharmacology, wondered if her levels of progesterone, an obscure hormone released after ovulation that’s integral to reproduction, might be an obstacle. If a woman produces fewer than 10 nanograms per milliliter—and almost 60 percent do—it’s a lot harder for her to conceive or keep a pregnancy. Acting more on a hunch than actual science, Beckley requested a supplement from her doctor. Two months later, she became pregnant.
The experience helped Beckley realize that if she could develop a reliable, accurate progesterone test, other women might feel empowered too. “They could ask better questions and seek better treatment,” Beckley says. So, in 2016, she raised $43,000 via online crowdfunding to develop what would become Proov, a $40 at-home progesterone test kit—the first of its kind. Used seven to 10 days after a woman ovulates, Proov’s paper strips function much like urine-based pregnancy tests: One vertical line means she has enough of the hormone to conceive. Two lines, though, indicate she should consult a doctor about trying supplements.
Even when progesterone deficiency isn’t their only barrier to pregnancy, Proov’s users say they are grateful to be able to diagnose and treat at least one of the unknowns. “Through this whole thing, you’re wanting information, and you’re wanting answers,” says Frisco attorney Courtney Edwards, who tried Proov and found out her progesterone levels were low after her husband met Beckley at a networking event. “[Proov] signaled to me, Yeah, you have an issue here. It helped me understand a little more about myself.”
To date, Proov has sold more than 12,000 kits and was named Startup of the Year at this past March’s South by Southwest technology festival in Austin, Texas. Yet Beckley is still striving to make the product more accessible: This month, Proov is unveiling an app that will remind women when to take the tests and also track