What Happens When Two Infertile Scientists Join Forces?

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September Burton:  Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of the Colorado Fertility Conference podcast. Today I have with me, Amy Beckley, Amy is, she, she says, Proov humble beginning. She’s the founder and inventor of Proov progesterone test strips, which is really, really cool. So. when founder and CEO, Amy Beckley had trouble conceiving for over three years, she did what many women do, saved up thousands of dollars and pursued in vitro fertilization treatment. After being blessed with a son, Amy knew she wanted to continue to grow her family. What she didn’t know was how well she could handle the physical and emotional challenge of another round of IVF. With a PhD in pharmacology and expertise in hormone signaling, she began tracking her own hormone levels at home. In doing so she started to suspect that she had a problem with ovulation, which was causing her to lose pregnancy after pregnancy. Empowered by this knowledge, she went to her doctor and got a prescription for hormone supplements. With these supplements, she was able to conceive without the help of IVF and maintain a healthy pregnancy .After her daughter was born, her mission was clear–to empower women with vital knowledge that could help in their ability to conceive. She founded MFB Fertility, inc, and invented the proof test in her own basement, which now allows women to confirm successful ovulation by tracking PdG in just five minutes at home. Amy, that is just amazing and awe- inspiring really that you invented this in your basement. Can you tell us a little bit about one of the things that I’ve really noticed in doing this work with the fertility conference that most practitioners in the world of fertility have their own struggle and that’s what kind of led them into this work. we just read a little bit in your bio. Can you talk about your own struggle ?

[00:01:42] Amy Beckley: yeah. I mean, the struggle was, I’m a scientist, and I knew there was something wrong with my body. Like using those tools, like ovulation tests or mucus tracking, temperature monitoring. Like I could tell that my body was not ovulating well, or there was some type of imbalance. I just knew it wasn’t right, and then, you know, going to a doctor and saying, “hey, something’s not right”, and being told you haven’t been trying long enough or you haven’t had enough miscarriages, like, you know, it was like that lack of support that was really what gave me the passion is it’s just, it’s a broken system. We don’t really consider infertility a disease until, you’ve been trying a year or three losses and it’s not covered under insurance and there’s little resources. And it’s very frustrating if you are a couple going through it, because you’re pretty much like left in the dark with no resources, no information. And then when you kind of get that help, it’s mostly, Oh, you have to do IVF. IVF is your only option and those kinds of things. And I felt like women deserved better. Like we needed more options, more education, more empowerment. And how do we provide that knowledge to them? So instead of walking to the doctor’s office or calling the doctor’s office and saying I’m infertile, I can’t conceive and being said, Oh, well, you just haven’t tried long enough. To hey I know I’m not ovulating properly. It’s not a matter of, you know, should I wait 12 months? Like I know there’s a problem. you know, I’d like to talk to a doctor about progesterone or Clomid, or, you know, like just having that little bit of education empowerment to have a guided conversation so that they don’t just say, Oh, you’re totally fine. Like, it’s just a matter of time. you know, that that’s really where the passion was. I have two beautiful kids and I’m done having kids. And this, this company is not for me, it’s for them. It’s for, you know, I learned something through my journey and I found some answers and I saw family and friends going through the same struggles that I was going through. And it, it broke my heart that they were doing this. And then I would basically coach each one one-on-one and then one day my friend called me who was also infertile. She’s like Amy, we got to do something. Can you, can you really invent something? And I’m like, I don’t know. I guess, you know, she’s like, okay. So we both put in a thousand dollars and we went online and we bought all the things that we needed to buy. I went to the basement and I put together this like super like ghetto prototype, but like the science worked, it didn’t look pretty. It wasn’t like something you can go buy off Amazon. It was just like, does this work? And it worked. And I was like, all right, cool. You know, we have this technology, we’re just two infertile scientists trying to like, do better. What do we do? We don’t have VC friends. We’re not like, you know, buckets of money laying around. We, we both went through IVF, we were drained for savings. And so we turned to crowdfunding. so like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, those, those are the platforms you can do, like crowdfunding and we just, here’s our prototype, here’s what we want to do. We want to make it at home progesterone tests so that you can understand if you’re ovulating properly. because you know this, if you don’t have enough of this hormone, you are at risk for infertility and pregnancy loss. It’s as simple as that. If, if you know, would you, would you pay money if we made this product? And you’d be the first one to have it. And within 48 hours, we were completely funded. We had enough money. We actually got it done in a real, you know, FDA registered CGMP manufacturing facility. And we had, at tests. And as soon as we sold those, we bought 3000 more. And we just kind of did that for the first year, just to kind of, you know, is this a thing? Like, do people actually, you know, want this information, and at the end of that first year, My cofounder got sick and, she had to pull out and it was just me. And I’m like, I cannot do this anymore. Like, this was not something that was producing money. It was a side, side hustle. It was like, I had a day job that paid the insurance, put food on the table. This was just a passion product project. And every money, dollar that I got back, I would put right back in to buy more product and just keep going. I couldn’t do it by myself. And I was about to just stop and just be like, I gave it a try. It just didn’t work. and then I got an email from, from one of the women that used the product and she is like, you have saved my marriage. Like you’ve literally saved my marriage. If it wasn’t for you I don’t know where I would be today. and that it gave me the passion. I was like, all right what do we gotta, we can’t just take this technology away from people. We gotta keep going. We had a truck on and we just, you know, we’re a bunch of women, so we know how to get stuff done. We’re like, you know, we’re not the typical this is how you do it. We just found different ways to make it work. And, you know, slowly, you know, introduce this product to women. And we’ve had over 300 successful pregnancies from women who said,  it wasn’t that you just helped me understand if I was ovulating. It was, I was not ovulating properly. Your tests allow me to have that better conversation with my doctor who treated me without IVF. And here I am pregnant. Your  knowledge directly had an impact on my ability to get pregnant. And that’s, what keeps us going. It’s those kinds of stories. And that’s, that’s why we do this. but it’s not, it’s not easy because nobody knows really what progesterone is and what it does. So I am, you know, sort of a self-certified progesterone expert. So, I’m sure your audience has lots of questions–what is progesterone? Why do you need it? You know, all those kinds of things. So happy to walk you through what progesterone really does.

[00:07:42]September Burton: Yeah, definitely, I want to learn much more about progesterone and I’m sure everybody listening wants to learn much more about that. So what I heard you just say first, before we get into that, is that you basically take like the mucus, the ovulation test, the temperature tracking, all of those different things that you do to see if you’re actually ovulating and you kind of tie it all together and bring it back to progesterone and that’s where the Proov test comes in. Is that correct?

[00:08:05]Amy Beckley: Yeah, my problem was I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. And without Proov it was really impossible to know what was going on. And so, I had cervical mucus, I had positive ovulation tests, I had a spike and BBT. I was ovulating, but my hormones were not conducive for conception. And so, you know, I think sometimes when people are doing basal body temperature monitoring and just OBK’s. They’re missing certain things. I just had this long discussion about cervical mucus, where if you’re not getting a good amount of cervical mucus and you’re out there using like pre-seed or, or mucin X or whatever it is, you’re treating the symptom, not the actual problem. So the problem is you don’t have enough estrogen. If you don’t have enough estrogen to make that high quality cervical mucus, you could have a poor lining that’s not conducive for implantation. And so. it’s, it’s hard to, you know, like BBT, if you get a nice rise, you can say, Oh yeah, I’m ovulating. It’s fine. You know, but ovulation is not a yes, no, it’s a how well am I ovulating is my hormones balanced. you know, you can be ovulating and have very little estrogen and a very poor lining that you can never get an implantation or you just lose pregnancy after pregnancy. And so, you know, what was out there available before Proov kind of gave you a false sense of security. It was oh yeah obviously I’m getting a positive ovulation test, I’m ovulating. No. Oh, I’m getting a BBT spike. I’m ovulating. Well, maybe but we don’t know if it’s very good. I mean, women, women with PCOS the ones that do ovulate usually have a poor quality ovulation and they still need to take, you know, different hormones, different support to really, you know diet changes, Metformin, those kinds of things to really make sure their hormones are balanced.

[00:10:04]September Burton: All right. So let’s get into the meat of it, which is the progesterone itself. Can you talk about what does the progesterone do for your cycle, why is it so critically important and what is it?

[00:10:15]Amy Beckley: Yeah. So if you think about your entire cycle, you know, as ovulation, the middle of your cycle, you know, roughly give or take is when you ovulate. So that’s when the egg is released. You have a positive ovulation test, right before you ovulate, so within 24, 48 hours of that, of that egg being released is when you get your positive ovulation tests. And so it was really great for timing intercourse. Like if you want to conceive great, these are your two most fertile days of your cycle time intercourse. Once that egg ovulates and gets released that corpus luteum or that empty follicle now produces a hormone called progesterone. And progesterone prepares the uterine lining for receiving the embryo. So without progesterone, your uterine lining is like a fluffy bed. but nothing will stick to it. Right? Including, you know, embryos. And so if you have progesterone you transform that fluffy bed into a sticky environment so that the embryo can actually attach an implant. And so if you don’t have enough progesterone, you can’t get implantation. And so it’s really, really important that you have enough of this hormone for a long enough period of time. And so progesterone is secreted your entire luteal phase, so the entire time between when you get that positive ovulation tests to, when you start your next cycle, if you did not conceive. And so that drop in progesterone actually causes the new cycle to start. So it’s a withdrawal of the hormone which causes the uterine lining to shed. And then you get your period.

[00:11:48]September Burton: Is there anything with progesterone that you would notice, like emotionally, that sort of those kinds of changes.

[00:11:54]Amy Beckley: Yeah. Progesterone is it’s the happy hormone, I think. And typically when you have a dramatic decline in progesterone or not enough progesterone, you can have mood disorders, anxiety, depression. It’s also the main cause of PMS or PMDD. and so it’s directly tied to mood and we’ve actually had a few women that had anxiety and depression. And they, they found out that it was a progesterone issue. And so they were on all these antidepressants and anxiety meds, and they just literally needed a little bit of bioidentical progesterone. And she’s fine now.

[00:12:32]September Burton: So is that what you suggest if somebody does the Proov test and they realize, no, I don’t have progesterone in my system. You recommend that they go to their doctor and get some progesterone supplements and bio identical hormones?

[00:12:44]Amy Beckley: So we can’t, tell them what to do. We could just have, let her have, you know, better empowered conversations with doctors. So progesterone’s not all or nothing, it’s not like you have it or you don’t. It’s like how much of it do you have and how many days, is it high enough? Right. So you think about implantation is happens between seven and 10 days after you ovulate. That means that your progesterone has to be high enough until day 10 after you ovulate, to make sure that embryo has enough time to travel from the ovary through the fallopian tube, to the uterus. And so, it’s important to have that, high level. Now, if she’s taking Proov tests and she’s dropping a little bit too soon, yes. Bioidentical progesterone could be a very good solution. If she’s not getting any positives,  that could be something that’s, you’re not ovulating at all. Like you need Clomid. You need Metformin if you have PCOS. And so, taking the knowledge that you get from Proov and saying, “X number of tests were positive. This is what this test told me”, giving that to the doctors, so that the doctor individualize the treatment for you. Is really where it’s so important, so impactful. So, you know, healthcare is not a one size fits all. And you know, your doctor knows you the best and the more information you give them, the more detailed on, how high was the level and how long was it high for? is really important information to help them really guide the right treatment for you.

[00:14:15]September Burton: So I assume the directions on like how to read the test and understand and interpret the results are included with the test when you purchase it?

[00:14:23] Amy Beckley: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. We’re a company of infertile women that are here to help other couples through this. And so we support our consumers 100%. We have a private Facebook community that people can come in, get answers, you know, is this test positive, negative? If it’s negative what do I do now? Where do I go? What did you do? What did you do? Like, you know, all those kinds of things to just support, you know, the community. But yeah, each kit comes with instructions. You know, fertility tracking is not the most, straightforward thing to do, especially when you’re talking about two different hormones, but we really try to make it easy. Okay, here’s what you do. Put it in the chart here. If there’s a, you put in the chart right there and it was just this nice way to just, okay, this, these were my results. and you know, if it’s still confusing, reach out, we a hundred percent want to make sure that the woman gets the information that she needs to move her forward.

[00:15:14] September Burton: That’s great. So when you, when I hear a Proov test and then listen to you talk about everything, I’m assuming that Proov comes from, you know, prove it to me, prove it to me that I’m ovulating. Is that accurate?

[00:15:30] Amy Beckley: Yeah. Proov originally came as a progesterone ovulation test. So progesterone. So the two words like put together. But yeah, I mean, it was like, these people that came up with these LH tests and called them ovulation tests is totally wrong because it’s not an ovulation test. It doesn’t tell you that you’ve actually ovulated, it’s an ovulation prediction test, but people call them ovulation tests. So that’s what we should have named Proov was, was an ovulation test. But unfortunately that name was already taken.

[00:16:05]September Burton: What are some of the common misconceptions that women typically have about ovulation and their cycles?

[00:16:11] The biggest misconception is that positive ovulation test means that I’m ovulating. And, my BBT spike means that I had a successful ovulation. And you know, if, if what I like to say is if you’re, if you’re doing the ovulation tests and the BBT, and your timing intercourse, you know, within a few days of that positive ovulation test either it’s, you know, a couple of days before, or a couple days after, and you’re not conceiving after like three or four months. There’s something wrong, there’s something wrong. Your tubes are not open, your uterus is not clear, you don’t have good sperm, you’re not ovulating well. Because statistics say that if you haven’t timed it well, and you’re still four cycles in and haven’t conceived, there’s something else that you should be looking at. you know, and that seems pretty short, but it’s, you know, if all the biology was working, it’s should be that fast.

[00:17:06]So does progesterone play a role in all of the different infertility diagnoses? As far as like endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS all of those different things?

[00:17:15]Amy Beckley: Yeah, absolutely. it’s, it’s amazing. So endometriosis is a disease where your uterine lining grows outside of your uterus. And the endometrial lining is high in estrogen receptors. And so endometriosis is pretty much a hormone imbalance disease where you have too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. And so the way that you treat endometriosis, if you’re trying to conceive is to backload a bunch of progesterone during the luteal phase to help balance those hormones out. So endometriosis absolutely can be treated with progesterone. It could be considered a low progesterone issue. PCOS the reason women with PCOS are infertile is because they’re not ovulating or they’re not ovulating properly. And so most women with PCOS do have low progesterone. They’re either not ovulating and think that they are. Or they are ovulating, but since their hormones are kind of misfiring their follicles aren’t as, hormone rich. And when she does ovulate, it’s not a high enough amount of progesterone. And so it could be more difficult to conceive and to stay pregnant. Thyroid is actually an interesting one. So a lot of, a lot of people think about, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s all those kinds of things where it’s like, it’s a thyroid problem, that’s why I’m not conceiving. Well, Thyroid and progesterone are best friends and whatever thyroid does progesterone does too. Or vice versa. And so if you have low thyroid, you pretty much always have low progesterone. And if you have low progesterone, you pretty much always have low thyroid. Cause they just kind of like to mirror each other. So one of the therapies of naturally increasing thyroid is bioidentical progesterone. Another one I see very commonly is, auto immune disorders. And that also could be, not always, but could be a low progesterone issue. Because another one of progesterone’s jobs is to dampen the immune system so that the body doesn’t reject the embryo because it’s half your partners and half yours. And so if you don’t have a dampening of that immune system and you have hyper activity and, anti whatever antibodies being produced, it’s overactive immune response, and it could be a low progesterone issue.  So you know, what I always like to say is everything stems from progesterone. That’s the body’s way to induce everything else from happening. So it was like, you have, you have estrogen and it prepares the egg and it prepares the follicle in the uterus. And then after ovulation progesterone is a hormone that’s produced that gets the body ready to conceive and ready to implant. And it does all those things. It modifies the immune system, it modifies the uterus, and what it does is it basically acts on those cells and induces different genes to be upregulated, different proteins, to be upregulated that does all these different things. so it’s a very, very important thing that a lot of doctors don’t track, they don’t measure. And I think it’s a shame because it’s something that could be so easily fixed. and that’s, that’s kind of a goal with proof is to educate people about progesterone–what it does, how it works, if they have a problem and help them get their answers.

[00:20:41]September Burton: I am absolutely fascinated right now, by everything that you’re saying. I went through my own set of, you know, recurrent miscarrigages way back when, and, hypothyroidism is something that chronically runs in my family. And I know that I kind of chronically deal with low levels of hypothyroidism. And so to hear that the progesterone is connected to that. I had no idea about that. So that’s completely fascinating. So I’ve seen you guys in the news fairly recently that you y’all have a contract with the military is that right?

[00:21:12]Amy Beckley: Yeah. so the military couples are three times more infertile than civilians. And part of it is because physical separation, you know, they’re deployed, their work hours aren’t conducive to going to the clinic. It’s far away from the fertility clinic. Oftentimes these, these bases are just in the middle of nowhere. and so, you know, we had somebody reach out to us and say–hey you know, the military needs your technology. And so we’re working with the Air Force to create a virtual fertility platform, which allows couples wherever they are to measure their hormones at home. And, digitize those, send those to doctors who can treat them virtually. We’re not going to be able to treat every single couple that comes through but we’re going to get 30, 40% of them and say, okay, you’re just, it’s just a hormonal issue. We’re working with this sperm test company as well, to bring that in too. So it’s like if it is either an ovulation problem or a sperm problem, and that’s like 85% of the cases of infertility. And so if we can kind of help them diagnose and treat in place as opposed to making them travel to do IVF. it was just going to get more couples pregnant with less cost and less stress and all that stuff. So we’re really excited to be working with the Air Force to provide that service to, to them.

[00:22:33] September Burton: Yeah, that’s really cool. So going forward, you keep talking about education and empowering women with this knowledge and this education. What is the plan for educating doctors and getting people sort of all on board and understanding this?

[00:22:46] Amy Beckley: It’s really tough because some doctors are very set in their ways and they don’t want to learn new technologies. They’re just not really, you know, and then COVID comes in and you’re not allowed to go anywhere. You can’t travel. So it’s like you try to reach these doctors via email, and they’re not going to answer your email. So we’re taking a different approach, and that approach is we reach out to doctors and if they like what we’re doing, we put them in what we call an approved doctor network that can basically feed into these women and support them. So you go on our website–hey, here’s Proov, here’s my results. And if you’re not getting the results that you should be getting and want to talk to a doctor we’re automating–hey, we noticed a you’re probably not ovulating very well. Do you want to connect to a doctor and talk about your results? And then we connect them through our app and into that platform so that they can talk to a doctor. So instead of educating all the doctors and making them like, okay, you have to use Proov. It’s more of, you know, the ones that have already believed in Proov we can now direct those women to those doctors, as opposed to the other way around.

[00:24:01] September Burton: Okay. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Well, I really appreciate you clearing up all of the misconceptions around ovulation and the education around progesterone. I know I certainly learned several things from just this conversation that we just had. so thank you so much for coming on and for giving us that gift. So if somebody wants to get a hold of some Proov tests what is the best way for them to get the test?

[00:24:22]Amy Beckley: Yeah. so we’re expanding distribution. We’re obviously available on our website, so proovtest.com. So proovtest.com. We’re also on Amazon. we’re also in target stores, we just launched on the FSA store. So fsa.com, which is great for, you know, end of the year. I have these dollars. I need to spend them. You can go to this site and everything you can put on your card. I mean, you’ve got tampons now, pads like anything. They will, just proov tests, ovulation tests, like all that stuff’s on there said you just to thinking,  not wait, you know, not that any of those dollars left behind in the FSA account.

[00:25:07] September Burton: I love it. what about social media accounts? Can people reach you on social media?

[00:25:10]Amy Beckley: Yep. We’re on Instagram, it’s proovtest, and we’re on and Facebook. We have a very, very active Facebook community. The best way to find us on Facebook is just like a Proov user group. and you know, if you want to learn about the product before you buy it, come on in and hear what people are saying. And if you bought it, you don’t understand what your results mean or when a test or whatever, you know, we’ll let you in and you kind of talk about protocol and what the results mean.

[00:25:37]September Burton: Any final thoughts before we check off, or words of wisdom, anything you want to leave our listeners with?

[00:25:43]Amy Beckley: Just you know be your own advocate and try to do as much as you can to be an active role in your journey. You know, I like to say, you’re the expert in you and your doctor is the expert in medicine. And when you combine the two, you can help them use medicine to individualize the treatment for you. And that’s really, what’s gonna get you to the end goal. If you do talk to your doctor and you have you know, whatever you, whatever you’re doing, you know, ovulation tests, Proov tests, cervical mucus tracking, whatever it is. And you present that data to that doctor and they dismiss you. You go find another one, go find another doctor. Life is too short, it’s too much of, it’s just too short to, to deal with that. There’s a lot of doctors out there that will support you. So, you know, when in doubt get a second opinion.

[00:26:35] September Burton: I love it. Thank you. And thank you again for coming on today, Amy.

[00:26:39] Amy Beckley: Yeah. Thank you.

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