Taboo and shame are incredibly powerful. They can cause you to withdraw from your support networks, stop you from sharing your health experiences, and make you doubt whether you need to seek help from healthcare providers. Fortunately, the unnecessary stigma and isolation that surrounds women’s health is slowly fading; an improvement which can be directly related to the remarkable rise in the number of FemTech organizations that are disrupting the HealthTech space and pushing to break women’s health taboos.
The Physical and Mental Effects of Shame
Research has shown that when a women experiences shame or taboo, they’re less likely to seek medical advice and professional help, which can delay diagnosis time and potentially lead to the development of a more serious health condition.
Unfortunately, even those who make it to a doctor don’t receive the level of care they deserve. With taboo subjects coming at the bottom of the priority list, these areas also suffer from a lack of research and funding. Endometriosis, for example, has historically been under-researched and under-funded, and as a result, has a diagnosis time of eight years. This means that even the most well-meaning healthcare professionals can find themselves ill-informed and unable to offer effective support and solutions.
The Market Size of Taboo Healthcare
Fortunately, the incredible growth of FemTech over the past decade can be directly linked to a collective desire to end the shame and taboo that surrounds women’s healthcare. Many of the FemTechs at the forefront of this movement are founded by women who have personally felt under-served by traditional approaches to healthcare, and are subsequently creating the products and services they themselves didn’t have access to.
Breaking taboos in women’s healthcare is a big business, with investors in the space beginning to recognize the importance of FemTech as well as its market demand. FemTechs like Elvie, for example, who provide products for breastfeeding and pelvic floor dysfunction, in recent years closed one of the biggest FemTech investment rounds: $42 million. In 2020, global healthcare giant Bayer acquired KaNDy Therapeutics – a biotech specializing in menopause technology – for over $1 billion. Companies targeting menstruation have also seen improved visibility and funding, with menstrual cycle tracker Clue having raised €29.7 million to date.
3 FemTechs Breaking Women’s Health Taboos
The MedTech firm Coroflo has created the first breastfeeding monitor which tracks exactly how much milk the baby is getting, directing the data in real-time to the mother’s smartphone. There was a huge interest in the product ahead of release, with as many as 60% of women reportedly discontinuing breastfeeding earlier than recommended due to concerns over milk supply. The creation of the Coro device allows a deepened understanding of a mother’s body and its capabilities.
“There’s increased awareness and education around breastfeeding but in terms of products there is nothing that we know of coming out to market. Coro is the only patented product in the world that can measure milk volume accurately. There really is nothing else out there that can allow people to truly monitor how much milk their baby is getting outside of what we’ve developed.”
Rosanne Longmore, CEO of Coroflo
The FemTech startup Syrona Health is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all things endometriosis. Along with many other conditions in the women’s health space, endometriosis is grossly under researched, undeserved and underfunded, even though it affects around 170 million women globally. The Syrona Health team is made up of zealous scientists with backgrounds in genetics, molecular biology, and bioscience, who believe that it should be easier to access support and care for female reproductive issues; and have created the SORA app to do just that.
“Too many women have bad experiences getting help with gynaecological issues because of the way our healthcare systems are set up, it’s time we change that.”
Anya Roy, Co-Founder of Syrona Health
A newly founded FemTech, Mae is a digital health platform that’s elevating the standard of care for Black expectant mothers. In their soft-launch, the platform features a free birth planning tool which anyone can access, and free 15 minute consultations with doulas for interested expectant mothers. The FemTech’s goal is to move the needle on utilisation rates and clinical health outcomes, reach consumers at scale to improve outcomes, lower costs, and address the long-ignored women’s health disparities.
“[Mae’s] initial feature set includes a culturally competent care marketplace enabling virtual and in-person connections with doulas and other maternal health experts, and a digital tools wraparound that informs and protects against the leading drivers of maternal morbidity and mortality: preeclampsia, cardiomyopathy, depression, and postpartum complications.”
Maya Hardigan, Founder of Mae
The Importance Of Breaking Women’s Health Taboos
As well as the obvious personal benefits these FemTech products and services promote, they’re also proving to be extremely beneficial for scientific research and understanding of women’s bodies, which has historically been massively under researched. The period-tracker app Clue, for example, recently discovered from its data that female hormones differ in East and West Germany; an insight which has allowed them to tailor their services even further.
Although there is still a way to go to break all of the taboos surrounding women’s health, many FemTech leaders believe that we’re on the right path:
“Female health is one of most tabooed areas in the healthcare space, most of us will probably agree on this. However, women are speaking up, finally. They are opening conversions about difficult topics, not because of the trend, but because they know it’s the only way to get better healthcare products and services in the future.”
Marija Butkovic, Founder and CEO of Women of Wearables
Despite initial resistance, the progression and possibilities of FemTech are opening up conversations on traditionally taboo topics in female healthcare, granting them the attention and resources they have always deserved.
Are you a FemTech startup or scale up looking to grow and scale? If so, get in touch! Our team of micro-niche consultants have deep networks of talent who will bring incredible experience to your FemTech organization.