Everything You Need to Know About Progesterone with guest Dr. Amy Beckley of Proov Test

Welcome to The Egg Whisper Show! Today, we’re talking about everything you need to know about progesterone with the CEO and Founder of the Proov test, Dr. Amy Beckley.

With a PhD in Pharmacology and after her own battle with infertility, Dr. Beckley created the Proov test in her very own basement, which confirms ovulation via PdG (urine metabolite of progesterone) tracking. Now, women can purchase Proov and confirm successful ovulation from the comfort of their home in just five minutes!

Listen to the interview on the Egg Whisperer Show podcast

Dr. Aimee: Welcome to the show, Amy!

Dr. Amy Beckley: Thank you for having me. I am just an infertile scientist that had an encounter with unexplained infertility but decided to take my experience and create a product that could help other people.

Dr. Aimee Great! Can you tell us a little bit about the product? I am going to ask you a whole bunch of questions about it, but for people who are just listening right now, what is the Proov test?

Watch our conversation on YouTube

Dr. Amy Beckley: The Proov test helps women understand if they are ovulating properly.

A little background: my problem (and why I was infertile) was I had an ovulatory disorder, specifically a luteal phase defect. What that meant is that I was ovulating, and I was producing progesterone — which is released after ovulation — but it would crash too soon. My progesterone was not high enough for long enough to support conception.

So, we created Proov, which you use 7–10 days after timing intercourse with a positive ovulation test. This allows you to understand if you’ve successfully ovulated and have enough progesterone to support conception.

The cool part about this is that it’s not a blood test. It’s urine based, so it’s non-invasive. Proov actually measures the urine metabolite of progesterone instead of progesterone itself.

You take a simple first morning urine sample, four days in your cycle, and you then have empowered information that you could take to your doctor, to work with your doctor on improving ovulation or stimulating ovulation. It just helps you monitor ovulation.

Dr. Aimee: How did you know that progesterone was an issue for you?

Dr. Amy Beckley: I had “unexplained infertility” and Proov was not around when I went through it. My doctors did not know what was wrong with me.

Cycle day 21, or seven days after ovulation, blood draws always had my progesterone between 5 and 10, and they considered that normal. Additionally, all my day three blood work looked fine, my tubes were open, and nothing was wrong with my uterus.

They told me that IVF was really the only option because they really did not understand what was wrong with me. So we went through IVF. I now have a son who is almost 10 from that IVF cycle and because of that it was an amazing, wonderful experience.

Then, when I wanted to expand my family again and have my second child, I kind of put on my scientist hat. I have a PhD in hormone signaling and with that knowledge I tried to really understand why my body was not able to hold a pregnancy.

So, I did charting with basal body temperature and really monitored when my cycle was, when I was spotting, and when my ovulation tests were positive. I discovered that the time between a positive ovulation test and my next period was about eight days, which is not long enough.

A typical luteal phase (which occurs after ovulation) should be at least 10 days or longer because it takes about 7 to 10 days for the egg to leave the ovary and travel through the fallopian tube, into the uterus. If you don’t have enough time for that egg to make that journey and your progesterone drops too soon, you start sloughing off the lining, and you get your period before the embryo has time to implant.

So that became my theory: I was not making enough progesterone to support implantation and conception. I had a lot of conversations with my doctor and I said, “Let’s try this naturally.”

And then, three days after my LH surge, he put me on supplemental progesterone which I took vaginally. Within a couple of cycles, I conceived my daughter, who is now six.

That was my “aha” moment, where I understood why my body was not ovulating and I wanted to empower other women with that knowledge because IVF is no joke. It is an amazing, awesome procedure. But if it is not something that you truly need, and you could solve with some other means, I wanted to help women find those other means.

I wanted to create a product that empowered women to have more informed conversations with their doctors. It gives you something to guide your conversations and allows you to be more informed when you get to those appointments. So then you can share that you did the home sperm test, tracked ovulation, or whatever that may be, to make the best use of the limited time you get with your doctor.

And that’s why we created Proov!

Dr. Amy Beckley and the Proov test box

Dr. Aimee: I think you are changing lives everywhere. I personally have seen patients benefit from this test because the results have brought them into the fertility clinic and asking the right questions, so that they can get the help that they need.

What is progesterone? Can you tell us more about this super hormone for people who don’t know a lot about it?

Dr. Amy Beckley: Absolutely! Ovulation tests (you can buy them anywhere) measure the hormone called LH (luteinizing hormone), which signals when the ovary is about to release an egg. And that is what happens first in your cycle.

The ovary has a developed follicle with an egg inside, and the surge in LH matures it and allows it to leave. The egg then goes through the fallopian tube (this is ovulation) and then it goes down into the uterus where it will implant.

After the follicle bursts and the egg is released inside the ovary, that follicle becomes the corpus luteum, which then starts secreting the hormone progesterone.

Progesterone’s role is to prepare the uterus to receive that embryo. It takes that uterine lining and makes it receptive and sticky for when the embryo comes down. Progesterone creates a happy, awesome environment in which the embryo can survive.

If you do not have enough progesterone at high enough levels, that uterine lining is not transformed and therefore is not a good, awesome place for that embryo to thrive.

Progesterone is required to get that uterus ready and to maintain that pregnancy. If at any time progesterone drops below a certain level, you are at risk of not getting pregnant, having a miscarriage, or having a pre-term labor. So it’s a really important hormone!

Dr. Aimee: And progesterone basically means promoting gestation, so that is a great explanation of it. Before your test, how were people measuring their progesterone levels?

Dr. Amy Beckley: A serum draw, which is a day 21 blood draw. It is a great tool which can tell you if you ovulated or not.

But this is where we upped the game. Truthfully, it’s not just a “yes” or “no” did I ovulate, but more generally, what was the quality of that ovulation? Did I successfully ovulate? The healthier ovulation you can have, the better.

So we did some research to find a better way to confirm ovulation. And we found PdG (progesterone metabolite) which is steadier than serum. Serum can fluctuate throughout the day. A single serum draw will tell you if you’ve ovulated but doesn’t tell you if you have enough progesterone for a long enough amount of time. By measuring the urine metabolite on these four days during the cycle, you can really understand if your levels were high enough for long enough to allow for a successful ovulatory event.

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Dr. Aimee: How is it different from other tests? Are there other types of tests like this out there or is this a novel test that just came to market?

Dr. Amy Beckley: Proov was the first, we were the pioneers. We developed this because of my own personal passion for this — I just wanted to do good. We did crowdfunding because it was just me, not a big company that had a whole bunch of money. It was literally me in the basement trying to figure this out. I got about 300 women that believed in this technology and helped us bring it to market.

We are the first and only FDA-cleared device like this. There are other devices. The biggest one is the DUTCH test, where you collect saliva, urine, and maybe blood over your entire cycle. You then send these samples to a lab and get the results back a couple of weeks later. All in, it costs about $500 which is pretty expensive.

Proov is about $30 a cycle. We wanted to make it accessible information for all women because we know this is not the only reason for infertility. We wanted women to be able to detect and diagnose as many things as possible.

And Proov is a completely at-home test! It’s a five-minute test that works just like an ovulation test. You collect urine, dip a strip, wait five minutes, and read the results. It is super easy and then you get great information to have better conversations with doctors.

Dr. Aimee: So, what about basal body temperature (BBT)? Can’t you check that and see if you have a high enough progesterone level?

Dr. Amy Beckley: Yes, you can use basal body temperature to see if you have ovulated. It will tell you yes or no. But it is so inaccurate because it can be influenced by the quality of your sleep, the season, room temperatures, or even alcohol. It can be a good indication that you may have ovulated, but it tells you nothing about your progesterone levels.

For example, I was using BBT and I had great patterns, but I still had a problem. But if you really want to understand if you are ovulating properly, and you have enough of the hormone, you must measure the hormone.

Some women like to use BBT alongside an LH test, which is great because it helps you better understand your ovulation day. But in order to understand if that ovulation was healthy, you have to measure your hormones.

Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash

Dr. Aimee: I want my patients to sleep well. I do not want them waking themselves up early in the morning to check their temperature. There are so many other things to worry about as you are going through fertility treatment, checking temperatures is the last thing I want people doing.

What are the ways to treat progesterone if it’s not high enough?

Dr. Amy Beckley: Yes! If you are not getting four days of positive results, the first thing you want to do is call your doctor and have that conversation with them.

There is a lot that doctors can do and there are different medications (including ovulation inducing medication) that they might recommend, like Clomid and Femara. If you are not making enough progesterone, there are prescription level progesterone treatments out there, such as Prometrium and Crinone.

Maybe you are getting three positives (out of the four days you test) and you don’t want to go the route of medications. In this case, there are natural things you can do around diet and exercise to help boost those progesterone levels. You could also ask your doctor about taking supplements (like the ones for healthy egg quality). You need certain nutrients so that you have a healthy ovulation and you can work with your doctor to find those nutrients that can help you.

Dr. Aimee: A lot of people are doing seed cycling. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how your tests can help?

Dr. Amy Beckley: Sure! Seed cycling is something that we found a couple years ago. It is the practice of eating certain seeds at certain times of your cycle. And I swear it works!

Before ovulation, or that positive LH test, you want to take flax and pumpkin seed. These seeds help your body produce natural, healthy levels of estrogen. If you have too much, it helps it lower it. If you do not have enough, it helps you get to that nice healthy level.

After ovulation, you want to switch to sesame and sunflower seeds, which helps you produce a healthy amount of progesterone. Eating those seeds at the two different times in your cycle naturally balances your hormones.

Women with 2, maybe 3 positive and 1–2 negative Proov tests may have progesterone dropping too soon. They tell us that they then start seed cycling, use Proov test the next cycle, and observe beautiful, positive results. Then, they show us a positive pregnancy test and the only thing they have done differently is seed cycling. It is healthy, natural, and helps support that balance. We are huge advocates of it.

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

That said, seed cycling is probably not going to help you if you are not ovulating, or if you have some major hormonal issue. And, as always, make sure you are talking to your doctor and you are not trying to self-medicate.

The biggest problem I find is that people do not want to go talk to their doctors. Then, they go on Amazon and they buy all this stuff and spend hundreds of dollars on these things. But they did not check their levels and do not know anything about their cycle. In the end, they have ended up making things worse for themselves.

The first step is to understand where you stand and to measure your hormones. Go to a doctor for the initial consultation. There are plenty of tests you can take at home to get a baseline level on yourself before you go and spend hundreds of dollars on supplements that might be harmful.

Dr. Aimee: Right — I have seen that before. I have had patients order progesterone online from Amazon. They take it at the wrong stage of their cycle and that can make the chances of pregnancy basically none because taking progesterone at the wrong time can push the uterine lining past its window of receptivity.

So, what do fertility doctors need to know about your Proov tests?

Dr. Amy Beckley: They need to know that it’s a powerful tool to help them assess ovulation quality. It complements the other tools that are available.

I would love to see all fertility doctors use this as their initial diagnostic. When you have a patient with infertility, I’d love to see doctors automatically say, “Let’s check your tubes, your uterus, your sperm, your ovulation, and we’re going to do cycle day three blood work.”

You know, ovulatory disorders are about 30% of all cases of infertility and there hasn’t been a good test for ovulation quality before we came along. It’s an extra 30 bucks, not a thousand dollars’ worth of testing. If the problem is something that’s as straightforward as solving an ovulatory disorder, Proov is a great place to start.

Dr. Aimee: Where can people find the Proov test? I think you are even on the shelves in some Targets, is that right?

Dr. Amy Beckley: Yes, we are on shelf at Target in select California locations and on target.com nationwide. We are also available on Amazon and our website, proovtest.com.

The Proov website

Dr. Aimee: You also have an active Facebook group that might help a lot of people who are struggling with infertility, or who are trying to conceive and want to learn more about their bodies. Can you tell us more about your Facebook group?

Dr. Amy Beckley: We are rooted in being helpful and educational. I have gone through infertility myself. I understand how lonely, isolating, and confusing it can be. There are so many products out there and unfortunately so many things that do not work.

We created a safe community of supportive women who are curious about Proov tests. They want to share their experiences and learn more about if Proov is right for them. We also help women understand their Proov results and clarify how to use the tests. Sometimes women are even looking for referrals and resources to help them move forward. It is completely free — you don’t need to purchase Proov to join — and it is just an amazing group filled with supportive, loving, and caring women.

Dr. Aimee: What is next for you and Proov?

Dr. Amy Beckley: Right now we’re working on a phone application, which reads tests and helps women track their cycles. It will tell you when to take an ovulation test. Then, as soon as it detects a positive ovulation test, it counts seven days, and reminds you to take a Proov test.

Then it compiles all this information and it spits out a chart and hormone graph that you can screenshot and share with your physician. It will help you understand if your cycle is healthy and you can use that information to move me forward.

Dr. Aimee: I love it. More now than ever people are learning more about their bodies and they are trying to do it at home without having to go in to see a doctor. Your tool is based on science and it is not one of those tests that wastes people’s time. And I think it can really make a huge impact.

Amy, thank you for all your work.

Dr. Amy Beckley: One more thing — just tracking LH and using an OPK (Ovulation Prediction Kit) only gives you half of the puzzle. I just did this huge experiment where I tested 13 brands of ovulation tests. With every single brand I got a big positive. But then I used Proov. I had one positive out of four days of testing and all the rest were negative. My luteal phase was nine days, meaning it was an unhealthy ovulation.

Without this additional piece of information from Proov, you could be wasting your time having intercourse that is never actually going to result in conception.

Dr. Aimee: Well, thanks again, Amy. I really appreciate all you do. Thank you for helping people everywhere.

Listen to our follow up Q&A session on the podcast

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Fertility Doctor, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Egg Whisperer: www.eggwhisperer.com