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Health and Medical Equipment > Meters

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Ovarian monitor for tracking a woman's fertility cycle, 1985 - 1994
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Object statement
Ovarian monitor, Ovulation Meter model OM5, for home use in natural family planning and assisted reproduction, plastic, developed by Professor James B Brown, made by St. Michael NFP Services Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, c. 1990-1994
'Natural family planning' (NFP) is a method of birth control based on a woman's knowledge of the phases of her ovulation cycle, which recurs more or less monthly. During each cycle a woman goes through a 'fertile period' and an 'infertile period'. As a means of contraception (or 'pregnancy avoidance') a couple will refrain from having sexual intercourse during the fertile period. Also known as 'periodic abstinence', natural family planning is a method chosen by many couples who do not wish to use more interventionist methods for personal, medical or religious reasons. Other than total abstinence, it is the only form of birth control approved by the Catholic Church.

Conversely, a woman who wishes to become pregnant is able to aid conception by ensuring she has intercourse during the fertile period. Knowledge of when her fertile period is occurring is also necessary if a woman is undergoing assisted reproduction (ART) at a fertility clinic.

The first periodic abstinence method of birth control with any scientific basis came to be known as 'the rhythm method' because it was explained in 1932 in a book, 'The rhythm of sterility and fertility in women' by Dr Leo J. Latz. Initially the 'rhythm method' was based on predicting the day of ovulation by counting days backwards from the expected first day of menstruation.

Since the 1930s there has been increased understanding of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of the ovarian cycle, allowing more reliable technologies to be developed that help women recognise and chart physiological changes. For example, some methods are based on monitoring changes in body temperature or cervical mucus. More recently devices have been developed that detect cycles of hormone levels in a woman's body through testing of urine.

In the 1980s Professor James B. Brown and his collaborators at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne devised an ovarian monitor for home use that could detect both the oestrogen rise that marks the beginning of fertility and the rise of progesterone at the end of fertility, by biochemically testing samples of a woman's urine. This was the first procedure of its kind that could be done with laboratory accuracy using relatively inexpensive equipment at home. Professor Brown's ovulation monitor, or 'Ovulation Meter', first became available to the public in 1986. The monitor underwent successive improvements and by 2003 the procedure remained internationally recognised as the only home test that could detect changes in the levels of both hormones on a daily basis.

The procedure for testing the urine is not simple and it is time-consuming, but is superior to other home tests because of its accuracy. Couples are trained in its use and are advised to take advantage of the phone, fax or email advisory service offered by St Michael NFP Services Pty Ltd, the company that manufactures and distributes the ovarian monitor.

The Model OM5 example of Brown ovarian monitor in the Powerhouse collection was donated by the Australian Council of Natural Family Planning in Sydney, an organisation associated with the Catholic Church in Australia.

Megan Hicks
Curator of health and medicine
February 2006

References:
Borek, A., Methods of family planning based on autoobservation and self-evaluation of the ovarian cycle.
http://www.med.muni.cz/~bourek/natural_conception_contraception_based_on_self_observation.pdf

Brown, J.B., 'Monitor update June 2002', St Michael NFP Services Pty Ltd information sheet (unpubl.)

Brown, J.B., 'Monitor update April 2003', St Michael NFP Services Pty Ltd information sheet (unpubl.)

Brown, J.B., Holmes J., & Barker G, 'Use of the Home Ovarian Monitor in pregnancy avoidance', Am J Obstet Gynecol., 165(6 Pt 2), December 1991:2008-2011 (Abstract available at PubMed - National Library of Medicine/ National Institutes of Health, USA
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=1755460&dopt=Abstract)

Cavero, C, 'Using an ovarian monitor as an adjunct to natural family planning', J Nurse Midwifery, 40 (3), May-June 1995, 269-276 (Abstract at PubMed - National Library of Medicine/ National Institutes of Health, USA
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=7798132&dopt=Abstract)

Siedlecky, Stefania, and Wyndham, Diana, Populate and perish: Australian women's fight for birth control, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1990.

Smyth, Kevin, St Michael NFP Services Pty Ltd, pers.comm. 16 February 2006.

(All websites sighted 16/02/2006)
An 'ovulation meter' for home use, based on a micrococcus enzyme immunoassay to measure the levels of oestradiol and progesterone metabolites in the urine, was devised by Professor James B. Brown at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, with prototypes first available to the public in 1986. According to Mr Kevin Smyth of St Michael NFP Services, the 'Ovulation Meter' in the Powerhouse collection is an example of model no. OM5. The model current in 2006 is the OM6.

The various models of the 'Brown Ovulation Meter', as it is sometimes referred to, have been made and distributed by St Michael NFP Services Pty Ltd. This is a small company of five people (in 2006) who work on a voluntary basis with Professor Brown as principal.

Wording inscribed on the face of the OM5 includes: 'Ovulation meter/ Made in Australia for/ St. Michael NFP/ SERVICES PTY. LTD./ Melbourne/ [etc.]'. On the transformer there is a black and gold manufacturer's label which reads: 'Arlec/ [etc.]'.
The OM5 model 'Ovulation Meter' in the Powerhouse collection was lent to the Museum in 1995 for the exhibition 'Taking precautions: the story of contraception'. It was subsequently donated to the permanent collection by The Australian Council of Natural Family Planning.

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Description
Ovarian monitor, Ovulation Meter model OM5, for home use in natural family planning and assisted reproduction, plastic, developed by Professor James B Brown, made by St. Michael NFP Services Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, c. 1990-1994

The Brown ovarian monitor (also called an Ovulation Meter) is an electrically powered device, intended to be used at home by a woman to assist in the charting of her ovarian cycle by analysing the hormones in her urine.

The meter itself is encased in a grey plastic box with a blue face. It has a slot with a hinged lid where a prepared assay tube of urine is inserted, on/off and 5 min/10 min toggle switches, and an LED read-out screen. It is accompanied by two small plastic assay tubes with lids, and a transformer that converts the 240V AC mains supply to 12V DC. The complete home kit would also include a urine-collecting jug, syringes for measuring water and urine, a test tube rack, and airtight storage tins, but these items did not accompany the donation.

The ovarian monitor identifies the beginning and end of the fertile phase of a woman's monthly ovarian cycle, by detecting the oestrogen rise that marks the beginning of fertility and the rise or progesterone at the end of fertility. To do this it utilizes a micrococcus enzyme immunoassay to measure the levels of oestradiol and progesterone metabolites in the urine.
Made: 1985 - 1994
Marks
Wording inscribed on the face of the meter includes:
'Ovulation meter/ Made in Australia for/ St. Michael NFP/ SERVICES PTY. LTD./ Melbourne/ [etc.]'.

On the transformer there is a black and gold manufacturer's label which reads:
'Arlec/ AC ADAPTOR/ INPUT 240V/50Hz/OUTPUT 12V DC/ 500 mA/ [etc.]'.

A white paper sticker on the side of the transformer is printed:
'Dr Barbara Gross, BPharm, MSc, PhD/ Senior Scientific Officer/ Department of Clinical Endocrinology/ Westmead Hospital/ WESTMEAD NSW 2445'.

A second paper sticker is printed:
'Byron & Francine Pirola/ 7 Duke Street/ Kensington NSW 2033'.
2006/49/1
Production date
1985 - 1994
Width
72 mm
Depth
124 mm

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
Acquisition credit line
Gift of the Australian Council of Natural Family Planning, 2006
Short persistent URL
Concise link back to this object: http://from.ph/358428
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{{cite web |url=http://from.ph/358428 |title=Ovarian monitor for tracking a woman's fertility cycle |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=22 October 2014 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}


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