S just forwarded me this article on Mark Levchin's (PayPal cofounder) new fertility tracking app, Glow.* My first thought as a seasoned infertile was probably the same as yours: there are already 37 fertility apps out there. Maybe 1,037. Frankly, from a tracking standpoint, Glow seems to be the same - you enter the average length of your cycles, date of your period, your basal body temperature, and - everyone's favorite - the consistency of your cervical mucus. You can also add comments about your stress level. One of the things that sets Glow apart is that it has an app for men. Basically it will share this information with your sensitive man. Said husband can also enter data about you, specifically whether or not you seem stressed. I am stressed, you say. My uterus is all janked up and my husband's sperm swim backwards. But let's say your uterus isn't janked up, or you don't know if it's janked up or not. The microscopic contents of your husband's semen is a big sticky question mark. All you know is that you want a baby and you've heard unprotected sex is an effective method of achieving your new goal. Your choices are to A) have sex when you feel like it and hope for the best, B) order Taking Charge of Your Fertility on Amazon, learn about ovulation signs, and properly time intercourse with the help of a free app like Fertility Friend, or C) Pay $50 a month and sign up for Glow where you'll track the same info you'd track had you chosen Option B.
So why do it? Why pay to take your temperature in the morning and study cervical seepage? That $50 you pay per month goes into a pool. If you are pregnant within 10 months of signing up for the app then good for you, you bought the most costly app ever. But you get a baby. So stop complaining, it's not like kids are expensive. If you don't get pregnant within 10 months, the idea is that you should check into a local fertility specialist's office. (Naturally, Glow will direct you to one in your neighborhood.) Levchin says that at least double what you've invested in your Glow app - and much more in the future - will go towards the cost of your treatment. Maybe now that means covering the cost of your Femara or an IUI, but in the future it could cover the cost of a cycle of IVF. Levchin has already invested one million of his own dollars into Glow and has raised $6 million more. Essentially this is an insurance scheme. Most of us don't get in car accidents but when we do, we sure are happy that we've paid our monthly insurance bill and that the repairs are covered. Most couples don't need help getting pregnant but many do. Is $500 a reasonable risk to put down on your fertility?
Honestly, I'm stuck on this one. On the one hand, Levchin has publicly recognized what most states and insurance companies haven't - infertility is a legitimate physical problem with serious emotional, mental and social repercussions worthy of care and coverage. The idea of elective self-insurance is exciting and could very well be ground-breaking within healthcare. I am concerned, however, that this app takes advantage of women's anxiety over their own fertility. While I consider myself an educated consumer, I'm embarrassed to admit that I have personally have thrown money away on ridiculous ebooks and programs "guaranteed" to improve my chances of conception. (I say ridiculous not because they didn't work for me, but because they were junk science marketed to very desperate women, like myself.) Also, with a $50 per month price tag, isn't Glow potentially offering a service to those that are better equipped to pay for assisted reproductive technologies anyways? True, $500 is a drop in the IVF bucket. Levchin states that he wants to use the data he farms on his app to shed light on various factors that can affect fertility, like weight and stress. That data may say more about the type of women that use the app; let me go out on a limb here - Type A, compulsive temperature checkers with a hunch that pregnancy might not come so easy.
I live in one of the very few states with an infertility insurance coverage mandate. Infertiles in Illinois and Massachusetts are very, very lucky. From a financial standpoint, I probably shouldn't take a stance at all. From an ethical standpoint, I'm conflicted. Glow is potentially exciting, certainly innovative as a healthcare funding concept. Maybe putting the idea out there is enough. (Well, the idea plus $6 million.) What do you think? I'm so curious to know.
*Interested to learn more about Glow? THIS INTERVIEW with Mark Levchin provides much more information than the article.