Home testing for women by women

Home testing for women by women

Brittany Barreto, Ph.D., is a podcaster, entrepreneur, and molecular and human geneticist. (In other words, she’s really smart.) She Read her column here every month to learn what’s happening in the world of technology and innovation in women’s health.

Susan hadn’t felt like herself in months. She was exhausted, with a thick veil of brain fog that no coffee could shake. Her appetite was spent and she had intense cravings. The sex life she once enjoyed with her husband seemed like a lifetime ago.

“And on top of that, I had acne! This was the last straw. I felt like I was going through puberty and that’s when I thought, maybe it’s the hormones? she said.

Susan then purchased a home urine-based hormone test from femtech company Feminade. Her test results revealed that her estradiol, a form of estrogen, was extremely low. Her health coach Feminade guided her through her relationship and suggested a diet, sleep and vitamin regimen. Within two weeks, Susan felt revived and her reports on Feminade showed normal estradiol levels.

Susan’s success with her Feminade reports is a good example of one of the latest trends in women’s health innovation: home testing for common health conditions and infections that occur in women. Like Susan, many women want to take their health into their own hands and appreciate the convenience of home testing and telehealth visits. Since the pregnancy test First launched on the market in 1978, home health tests have increased dramatically in both popularity and accuracy. Another great news: many of the test kits available today were created by women.

Here’s a look at some of the latest ways prevention and screening are getting easier for women because of other women.

(Photo/courtesy of Feminade)

Stix

Women often sense when something is wrong with our body. This is especially true when it comes to the vulva (the area around the vagina). Some itching or a small amount of discharge is all it takes for most of us to suspect a yeast infection. If you have one, then you need an antifungal drug. And, unless it’s your first yeast infection, you can buy it yourself. But sometimes the same symptoms mean you have bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a urinary tract infection (UTI) and need an antibiotic, which would require a healthcare professional. So how can you tell?

Stix offers home test strips for UTIs e vaginal pH (which can indicate a yeast infection), enabling women to screen themselves at home and seek treatment with confidence. Urine or vaginal swab tests are easy to use and clinically tested and offer an immediate response. Oh, and did I mention the kits are $15 with overnight delivery options?

stix vaginal pH test(Photo/courtesy of Stix)

Juno Bio

If you’re a data nerd like me or are looking for an answer to recurring vaginal infections, then having your complete vaginal microbiome — the bacteria that live in your vagina — sequenced might be just the test for you.

Juno Bio offers a simple kit for testing the vaginal microbiome at home. After you receive the kit in the mail, simply swab the inside of your vagina and send the sample back to the company. Scientists analyze the genetic material of the microbiome, including all bacteria, yeast and viruses on the swab. The results show which microbes are present and how many there are, which is just as important.

Indeed, there have been imbalances in the vaginal microbiome linked to more than 30 health conditions. Pelvic inflammatory diseasepreterm birth and the likelihood of a successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle can all be predicted from vaginal microbiome data.

Hana Janebdar, the founder of Juno Bio, said antibiotics and unprotected sex are two common causes of an imbalanced vaginal microbiome. But when it turns into something that keeps coming back, it’s often because the health condition or infection isn’t diagnosed or treated soon enough. “Doing it right is really, really important because there’s not much you can do when your vagina is on fire,” she said.

Juno Bio Vaginal Microbiome Test Kit(Photo/courtesy of Juno Bio)

Tulip

Now, this next test is really taking a different approach to measuring your health at home. Many women struggle with heavy menstrual bleeding. This is usually diagnosed by a doctor by asking questions like, “How many pads do you use per cycle?” But what if we were able to actually quantify the amount of blood lost during menstruation? And instead of guesswork, could we get the exact amount of milliliters of blood lost during one day of the menstrual cycle? Introducing Tulipon, a menstrual health device that is a blend of menstrual cup and tampon.

The Tulipon is inserted into the vagina like a tampon. But instead of an absorbent material, it opens into a cup-like device just below the cervix. This cup collects all of your menstrual effluent (that’s a fancy term for whatever your body loses during your period). When the tulip string is pulled, the cup seals on top and all menstruation is collected in a contained pouch, which can be easily pulled out of the vagina.

Why would you want to collect your period? Well, firstly, the Tulipon has markings on the side of the product that indicate milliliters. Just like your measuring cups in the kitchen! Now women can tell their doctors exactly how much blood they’re losing each menstrual cycle.

Tulip device(Photo/courtesy of Tulipon)

So, we give a shout out to the women who have created products that meet the growing demand for women who play a role in their own health care. An added bonus: Access to home diagnostics is affordable for everyone, but it’s especially important for women living in healthcare deserts where it’s hard to get the care they need.

Keep an eye out for other at-home tests coming to market soon, such as Dotlab to help diagnose endometriosis, AMA Biotech for sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests using menstrual effluent and Glooma’s at-home breast exam device.

The product and/or service information in this column does not constitute any form of endorsement or recommendation by HealthyWomen. The links are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. This column may occasionally cover companies in which Brittany Barreto is an investor.


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