I recently froze my eggs. I was actually surprised by how much energy, effort and time was involved. It’s not as straightforward as taking a “fertility test” today and then deciding to freeze your eggs tomorrow. The entire process demands months of preparation – from getting your body to optimal health to coordinating with care providers, pharmacies, etc. I’d like to do an AMA on Twitter sometime on what the whole process was like for anyone who is curious.
But that’s not the point of this post. The process of freezing my eggs has made me think about the rise of “femtech” over the past few years.
The term “femtech” describes all technology products, apps and hardware addressing women’s health and wellbeing. It encompasses everything from menstruation to menopause, and from fertility and pregnancy to breastfeeding. As such, there is no wonder why there is so much excitement coming from entrepreneurs and investors alike given that this one often-quoted report predicts femtech could become a $50B industry by 2025.
I see opportunities in two categories: fertility and general health.
- Opportunities in fertility
Today, period and ovulation tracking apps are commonplace. There’s Clue, Glow, Apple Health, just to name a few. And, at-home fertility tests (like Modern Fertility and Lilia) that measure one hormone level (AMH) are seeing traction.
These kinds of apps are a major step toward encouraging women to be aware of their fertility. But, what do women do once they have this information? Fertility treatments (such as IVF and IUI to get pregnant, or egg preservation) are still prohibitively expensive, ranging from $15-25K per cycle.
Some startups are coming up with financing plans, either a personal loan or through employers, to make the cost of fertility treatment cheaper. Some examples are Carrot Fertility, Progyny (which just went public) and Future Family. These options make fertility treatment more accessible to a certain population, but ultimately, the cost is simply being passed from one stakeholder to another. As such, it’s unlikely that all insurers can provide this benefit.
So, where do the costs of fertility treatment come from? There are several sources:
1) continuous tests (blood, ultrasounds) and monitoring when undergoing the process (over a month+ period of resources from a healthcare team of doctors, nurses, etc.); 2) egg retrieval and/or implantation (this is a surgery that requires anaesthesia); and 3) storage (cryopreservation).
Knowing the costs of the above, I would love to connect with anyone working on the advancement of fertility treatment technology as it seems like this is what will decrease the cost and truly make it accessible without just shifting the cost from one stakeholder to another.
Once the cost drops, we can empower women to preserve their fertility at a younger age, if they wish. After all, the best time to preserve fertility is in one’s 20s but because it’s so expensive, many young women don’t have the financial capacity to do it until they are older…at which point, fertility is statistically worse.
- Opportunities in women’s general health
Today when we are sick, we visit the doctor. The doctor diagnoses us with tests before treating us. This all takes time and money… it is inconvenient and also costly for people who can’t afford to go to the doctor for common ailments.
In the future (and we’re starting to see this happen now), tests will be taken in the home with results delivered immediately: imagine something like a pregnancy test or glucose test strip in the home but to diagnose common ailments like UTIs, STDs, strep, etc. which can then be treated via telehealth with a doctor quickly reviewing results and writing a prescription to your local pharmacy or directly to your home.
It’s a future where these tests and care are effectively delivered as close to OTC (“over the counter”) as we can get (but can’t currently because treatment often involves regulated medications like antibiotics). As we approach OTC treatment, even if patients have to pay out of pocket, it will cost a magnitude or two less than going to a physician or clinic.
All of this is to say: I would love to connect with those who are developing non-invasive, at-home tests that have the capacity to diagnose conditions or help monitor them – whether it’s through blood, urine, microbiome, saliva, etc. And what makes these kinds of diagnostics so interesting in the area of femtech is that most women ovulate and get their periods every month, so there’s an opportunity to learn about her health from her cervical fluids and menses (which may give us a variety of blood and protein measurements) on a frequent basis! Some examples here are Qurasense, Next Gen Jane, and Kegg.
If you’re involved in developing at-home diagnostics, advancing fertility technology or making treatments more affordable and accessible, please reach out!