Could your iPhone Tell You You're Pregnant?

Scientists are working on a sensor and smartphone app combo that has the potential to detect pregnancy. Could your phone replace peeing on a stick?

Could your iPhone Tell You You're Pregnant? Eskymaks/Shutterstock

The future of early parenthood may be even more closely tied to our smartphones. With women already using their personal devices for everything from tracking their fertility, to learning about carrying a baby, and connecting socially with other soon-to-be moms, it's no surprise that researchers are coming up with a way in which mobile phones can help 21st century users detect pregnancy.

POAS? There might be an app for that

The technology is in its very early stages and practical use is still in the unforeseen future, but scientists at the Hanover Centre for Optical Technologies in Germany have already designed a fiber optic sensor that hooks up to smartphones and could detect changes to the body, using blood, urine, saliva, or sweat. This could be used to monitor gestational diabetes or even confirm a woman's pregnancy. In other words, the recently designed sensor could tell a woman she's pregnant through a smartphone app.

A paper published in Optics Express details the way in which the sensor employs surface plasmon resonance (SPR) to determine the makeup of certain substances with the help of light-driven electron monitoring. This type of data gathering usually involves expensive lab work and equipment. But modern-day smartphones are surprisingly well-equipped to perform with the light detector and source required.

Dr. Kort Bremer, co-author of the paper, says that applying the fiber optic sensor and SPR technologies to pregnancy detection would make it a more sensitive, accurate, and reliable test. "In this case the sensor system would look like the common pregnancy test," he says. "However, instead of the control lines the readout would be performed by the smartphone."

The future of diagnostics

As far as eliminating the need for doctors and in-office medical testing, Bremer says that it's certainly possible and a definite goal of that type of application for the sensor system. That being said, the pregnancy testing function hasn't yet been developed. "So far we only demonstrated the proof of principle of the sensor system in general," Bremer notes.

Performing this type of chemical analysis might make you feel like a scientist or a doctor, but a mass roll-out depends on the development of a low-cost version of the sensor system and possibly licensing a pregnancy test application with an existing company. Either way, don't start peeing on your smartphone any time soon!

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