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I was misdiagnosed with PCOS and took 18 months to conceive. I invented a technology to help other women avoid experiences like this.

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I was misdiagnosed with PCOS and took 18 months to conceive. I invented a technology to help other women avoid experiences like this.
  • Amy Divaraniya always had irregular periods and was misdiagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • She founded Oova, which makes a test to help women monitor their hormone levels at home.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Amy Divaraniya. It has been edited for length and clarity.

If you're Indian American, there are two questions you get asked constantly once you've found the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with: When are you getting married? And when are you having kids?

My husband and I had answered the first question, but seven years in, we were still unable to answer the second.

One day, nine months into trying to conceive, I was sitting in my bathroom holding yet another negative test. I had my dad's ancient magnifying glass in my hand, desperately searching for a ghost line. But when I caught my reflection in the mirror, the only thing that became clear was how absurd this had become.

A misdiagnosis made me apprehensive about the medical system

Even before trying, I suspected I might have trouble getting pregnant. I've always had irregular cycles. After college, my mom urged me to go to the OB-GYN to figure out the cause. She was already worried about my future fertility.

The doctor took one look at me and gave me a diagnosis of PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. I had gained some weight while studying nonstop in the library, and I hadn't had my eyebrows done in ages. While weight gain and facial hair are symptoms of PCOS, they're not diagnostic criteria. But my doctor had made up their mind, without blood work or an ultrasound. They started me on medications that made me miserable for the next three years.

It wasn't until I went to a new OB-GYN that I realized I'd been misdiagnosed. This doctor ran blood work, which showed that my hormones were perfectly level. I had been on medications with terrible side effects for no reason.

That experience made me question how women are treated in medicine. It underscored my frustrations with the medical system and later made me determined not to go down the invasive route of assisted reproduction.

I wanted better information about my body

Still, that day in my bathroom, I knew there must be another option. While trying to conceive, I was peeing on all the ovulation tests and pregnancy tests I could find. I took my temperature at 4:30 every morning, hoping to pin down my cycle. I used every period-tracker app. But I still felt lost.

Those 18 months of trying to conceive were devastating. But they also gave me an idea: What if we could empower women with better information about what's going on in their bodies, individually?

I'm a data scientist with a doctorate. I have a background in biology and the pharmaceutical industry. I felt confident that I could help craft a solution.

I came up with an idea for a urine-analysis system that would allow women to track their hormonal fluctuations at home. Oova gives lots more information than an ovulation test, and that knowledge is power for our users.

I founded a company and delivered a baby

A few months after I started working on Oova, I finally had a positive pregnancy test. I had nine months to grow a baby and to take this idea from conception to product launch.

By the time I was in the delivery room we had a prototype, and we did user testing while I was on maternity leave.

It's been four years since then. My son is now a preschooler, and my business is growing too. During the pandemic Oova really took off because our technology allowed fertility doctors to monitor their patients remotely.

There's simply not enough research about women's hormonal health. We're taught that everyone has a 28-day cycle, but that's not true for 87% of our users. Research on hormonal health was done on young women with regular cycles, and it hasn't kept up with the typical woman trying to get pregnant today.

Eventually I hope to do the same for people in perimenopause. There are so many times in our lives that are affected by hormones. The better we understand our individual hormones, the more we can control our health.

Unfortunately, technology can only provide so many answers. I would love my son to have a sibling to grow up with. But I'm simply not sure I can face the emotional toll of infertility again. Just the thought of going through that again, feeling at a loss and out of control, is very difficult to come to terms with. I haven't been able to get over that hurdle.

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