When used perfectly every time, oral contraceptives have a 99 percent efficacy rate. Emphasis on perfect, though—which means taking your pill at the same exact time, every single day. Given that so few of us are truly perfect (except maybe Tabitha Brown), this explains why the actual efficacy of the Pill really hovers at around 91 percent, and that an estimated 9 percent of people get pregnant each year despite being on the Pill. Many researchers have been trying to perfect the popular contraceptive method to make it less vulnerable to human error, but medical device innovator Amanda French hopes to fill that gap with Emme: a two-part system (including a $99 case and free app) for making sure you never forget your 10 p.m. pill time ever again.
Once you buy the Emme case, which comes in five millennial-chic colors, you simply slip in your most recent birth control pack and download the app on your phone. From there, you’ll tell the app which pill you’re on (say, week two, pill three) and the case will automatically sense when you’ve taken your next dose in the future. Even better, it will nudge you to take your pill within the most effective window and give you the 411 on exactly what to do if you happen to miss a day. And because your menstrual health is a huge part of your overall health, the app also allows you to track your cycles so that you can easily track changes in your libido, mood, and body as the month wears on.
Basically, it’s like a Blackberry that manages the holistic reproductive health of Pill users—and French tells Well+Good that there’s an urgent need for this kind of tech in the U.S. “As a medical device innovator, I’ve developed products in the heart valve space and in the hearing aid space,” says French. “Back in 2016, I went to Stanford to participate in an innovation program called Stanford Biodesign, where we got to look at hundreds of unmet needs. I was just really baffled and disappointed at the lack of innovation that I was seeing in women’s health—especially compared to these other categories that I’ve innovated in.”
“I was just really baffled and disappointed at the lack of innovation that I was seeing in women’s health—especially compared to these other categories that I’ve innovated in.” —Amanda French, co-founder and CEO of Emme
French sought to fill in the blank space in reproductive health that leaves people with periods sans-roadmap, navigating the waters of birth control alone. And the more closer she analyzed the problem, the more inspired she felt to make a change. “I started doing interviews with hundreds of women and I just heard over and over again, this very classic and simple issue of the missed pill problem.” Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 15 percent of women aged 15-44 who take oral contraceptives missed one pill over the course of a month; other research puts that number as high as 51 percent. This seemingly small thing, she says, likely contributes to the estimated 2.8 million annual “unintended” pregnancies in the United States each year. “And so I decided to start Emme as a lifelong digital health company for women—starting with the pill problem,” says French.
Because I happen to belong to the missed pill club despite the blaring alarm I’ve had in my phone since I was 18 years old, I decided to give Emme a shot for myself for a full 30 days.
It took me less than two minutes to set up my Emme case, download the app, and start exploring. I was immediately drawn to the simplicity of the features. Nothing on the app seemed superfluous; in fact, every feature felt intuitively designed. The home screen takes you to a “health updates” page that informs you when you need to take your next pill, when you’ll need to replace your current pack (very important), and the various badges you’ve earned from nailing the timing of your dosage. (For example, I received a “Pill Queen” badge for taking 20 pills in a row—so I’m basically a star.)
Navigating to the “pill back” tab in the app, I could see exactly when I took my birth control each night and—thanks to Emme’s push notifications—I’ve pretty much nailed the timing each night, hitting within a 30-minute window of 10 p.m. The other few tabs are dedicated to tracking my cycle, reading Emme’s blog (which shares need-to-know info on reproductive health), and my profile where I can choose settings, like how often I’d like to be reminded to take my pill.
And that’s really it, folks. The minimalistic approach means there’s no overwhelm or clunkiness when using Emme. With the app and case watching my back, I start to feel more relaxed around nighttime because I know that the reminder will come in and tap me on the shoulder. Yes: It’s game-changing for me as someone who’s going on seven years on the pill, but I imagine this device would be especially revolutionary for someone who’s just beginning their journey with birth control—whether for the purposes of acne, hormone health, or for contraceptive.
Research shows that it can take anywhere between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit, so for those just unwrapping their first pack, Emme could be the difference between forgetting and remembering to pop the aluminum seal and take the pill. Right now, the efficacy of birth control still sits squarely at 91 percent—but who knows what the future will bring if products like Emme are cornering the reproductive health space.
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