While our hormones affect our lives in many different ways, we often don’t think about keeping them healthy, happy or balanced.
Hormona offers personalised hormonal health through its app that aims to educate and empower women to live better and healthier lives.
FemTech World meets Jasmine Tagesson, the co-founder of Hormona to discuss hormones, general well being and how, when it comes to health, knowledge is power.
Hormones are responsible for a lot more than we give them credit for. They can regulate our appetites, libido, sleep, heart rate, mood and stress levels. Imbalances happen when there is too much or too little of a hormone in our bloodstream which causes side effects throughout the body.
Hormones are chemicals that are produced by the glands in the endocrine system. They travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs to tell the organs what to do.
Hormona and hormones
The idea for Hormona came from founder Karolina Lofqvist’s struggle to get diagnosed with hormone imbalance and thyroid disease.
“My co-founder started to feel very unwell about seven years ago. She was eventually diagnosed with hormone imbalances but it took a good three or four years before she was diagnosed with this and thyroid disease. Upon being diagnosed she set out to start talking about all of these common and uncommon conditions that you can suffer from as women.”
“Hormona started as more of a platform around mental and physical wellness because so many of these things affect your mental health too. Karolina personally learned about the connection between our bodies and our minds and the importance of both being balanced for you to live a healthy life. She wanted to share this with other women.”
This was at the start of 2019 and Jasmine joined the company six months later. She had grown up with Karolina in Sweden and she knew she wanted to get on board with a company focused on female health and empowerment.
“After a while, we started talking to the community to find out what they wanted to learn about. After long discussions, what came across was the lack of knowledge around our hormones and how they affect us. A lot of people don’t know how they fluctuate throughout our cycle. They are connected to premenstrual symptoms or how we feel. It became apparent very quickly that this was an area we need to focus on.”
A big problem when it comes to knowledge around our hormones is that most women are not taught about their importance. This education is missing from discussions with our doctors, in our sex education and not even properly discussed with friends.
Hormona’s research backs this up. They reported that 80 per cent of women suffer from hormonal imbalances yet 75 per cent said they do not understand their own hormones.
“I think part of the problem is that we are missing this information from the start. Where is this education in schools? We don’t talk about how our periods and hormones work during sex education. We focus on the sexual side of things in terms of not getting pregnant or having unprotected sex. There was nothing about hormonal contraceptives and how they affect your natural hormonal system. We aren’t told much about menopause until we are in it so there is a definite lack of information all around.”
Hormona works by giving women the tools to address hormone imbalances and the associated symptoms. It provides the education that has been lacking for so many women.
“The main way to deal with our hormones and if they are imbalanced is through lifestyle and nutrition. Changing your lifestyle so there is less stress or your diet to promote better health is how you will balance your hormones.”
It’s not always the same symptoms that present when it comes to a hormone imbalance. Different people can have different symptoms and there can be up to 45 different signs such as weight gain, weight loss, acne, hair loss, anxiety, brain fog, depression or low libido.
Jasmine explained that the list is never-ending which makes it hard to diagnose because all the symptoms can be signs of other problems too.
“Many people don’t realise that their symptoms are connected to a hormone imbalance so they just learn to live with it. So the first step of Hormona, our app, is to help women detect and manage their personal cycle patterns and individual hormonal rhythm along with associated symptoms. Our app provides women with daily hormonal expectations and best tips along with tracking facilities and a community.”
Jasmine also highlighted that there are ways of changing your work to better suit your hormonal cycles. This could potentially boost productivity.
“We work on the same terms as men do but men have a 24-hour cycle compared to our 28-day cycle. We have certain days in our cycle where we are not the most productive and shouldn’t be working eight hours a day or taking big meetings. There are other days where we will be doing 14 hour days because we have so much energy. We want to try to help women optimise their life around their hormones and not necessarily be forced to follow a man’s cycle because it’s not how women’s bodies work.”
Hormona is also working on developing a first of its kind home hormone testing kit that will help women understand their hormone levels and fluctuations as well as to detect any concerning changes from the comfort of their own home.
Another statistic from Hormona’s research noted the sad reality of a lack of knowledge around hormones. It revealed that 60 per cent of women felt lonely in their hormone journey.
“Until recently, you didn’t talk about these things. You may have two friends you could talk to about periods but it wasn’t your everyday conversation. This is changing which is great and I feel social media has played a huge part. There are so many people raising awareness and talking about it which makes it less taboo.”
Femtech, funding and Hormona
When it comes to funding, Hormona has done well but Jasmine highlighted a problem that a lot of femtech and female-led companies face – how to pitch women’s products to a board room full of men?
“It’s tricky talking about a female issue with a group of male investors. It’s not easy because they can’t relate. People just assume that when you talk about hormones, it’s all about fertility. We have to say, no, we are not in the fertility space at all. Hormone health is its own area and it deserves the same amount of attention.”
So is the answer more women in board rooms? Jasmine is not convinced.
“The more women in the industry the better obviously, but the sad thing is that women are actually much tougher critics of other women and their ideas. It’s the same in many industries so we wrote an article about toxic femininity and how it exists in the workplace which is a similar thing. Women in powerful positions are very competitive.”
She added: “My view is that we are stronger together. If we can join forces then there is a positive change for all of us. Regardless, I think investors do see the value in Hormona and they see that hormone health and femtech is such a hot topic which makes them want to be involved. Then the lack of knowledge in that field makes them a bit unsure but I think this is slowly changing and I’m sure we’ll hear about hormone health more and more in the next couple of years.”
*The original article appeared in November on Health Tech World
Researchers to develop portable hormone monitoring device
The device is hoped to help women identify symptoms that could be signs of common female health conditions
Scientists from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University are working on a new portable device that could help women track and monitor their health and hormones.
The gadget will be smaller than an iPhone and will keep track of the full picture of women’s health, from period symptoms to hormone fluctuations, mood and sleep.
The device is hoped to help women identify symptoms that could be signs of common health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and alert them when they would need to see a doctor.
The researchers hope it will capture data on a variety of fertility-related hormones, like luteinising hormone, which stimulates ovulation, and others like thyroid-stimulating hormone.
The project, led by Dr Sadeque Reza Khan, a specialist in biomedical devices and sensing in Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Sensors, Signals and Systems, is funded by the Scottish Government.
Improving women’s healthcare
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the waiting list for gynaecology appointments, diagnosis and treatment has soared up to 60 per cent recently, affecting more than half a million female patients.
A study conducted by the RCOG in 2022 shows such delays can significantly affect women’s physical and mental health, as well as their quality of life.
“We’re working on building a device that will be about half the size of an iPhone and completely portable. Women will be able to take it everywhere,” explained Dr Khan.
“Women will be able to test both blood and urine, as well as record symptoms, which will provide the most accurate and real-time picture of their health. The device will transfer key data wirelessly to an app, and share it with a gynaecologist.
“At Heriot-Watt we are working on the hardware development and miniaturisation aspect of the device, which is critical as we envision a portable female health monitoring device which women can carry anywhere and reliably use without any hassle.”
Dr Khan is working with viO HealthTech, whose OvuSense device provides continuous general monitoring of the reproductive cycle, and Dr Ruchi Gupta from the University of Birmingham, an expert in developing biosensors.
Rob Milnes, CEO of viO HealthTech, said: “Our users tell us they want access to personalised health information and insights that can help them make informed decisions about their health not only when issues occur, but to avoid those issues in the first place.
“This project offers the exciting prospect of targeted diagnostics added to our existing monitoring system”
Dr Ruchi Gupta from the University of Birmingham, added: “We have been developing our leaky waveguide (LW) biosensor to measure different types of biomarkers; proteins, DNA, hormones, and even cells.
“Our LW biosensor will be at the heart of the gadget for women’s health monitoring. Our partnership with Dr Khan and viO HealthTech will be a key step in the translation of our LW biosensor from bench to bedside. ”
Concept to commercialisation
The team have already started working on the project and, once they have proof of concept, they want to start focusing on making the device commercially available.
“As well as making sure we meet all regulatory requirements, we need to ensure that women can afford the device,” said Khan.
“We’re focused on making sure we are using affordable, sustainable materials that will make this available to a greater number of women.”
Professor Steve McLaughlin, deputy principal of research and impact at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The development of this device demonstrates how our new centre of excellence will support the creation of ground-breaking technologies that have the potential to revolutionise patient care.
“Bringing together academics and industry experts, we want to accelerate the process of bringing these vital developments to market.
“We already have several research projects underway and the next 12 months are going to be a really exciting time as we showcase our developments on the global stage.”
Canadian period pain relief company makes first acquisition
The acquisition is hoped to help Somedays improve the range of period care products available on the market
The Canadian period pain relief company Somedays has acquired the period care brand Aisle in an effort to “redefine” the future of menstrual care.
Lux Perry, founder and CEO of Somedays, has said the acquisition of Aisle would help the company prioritise reproductive health and improve the range of period care products available on the market.
“The philosophy underpinning this acquisition prioritises keeping reproductive health businesses in the hands of those they serve and celebrating an impact-based brand that has been at the forefront of the menstrual health movement for decades,” Perry said.
“It may sound idealistic, but I believe that good business and good values are not mutually exclusive. The strategic aspect of the deal lies in the synergy of the two company’s shared audiences and complementary product lines.”
Suzanne Siemens, co-founder of Aisle, said: “Aisle’s story is deeply rooted in menstrual equity and advocacy.
“As we pass the torch to Lux, we are confident that the vision of universal, sustainable access to menstrual care we’ve championed will continue to flourish for generations to come.”
Aisle co-founder, Madeleine Shaw, added: “This intergenerational union exemplifies a fusion of experience and new energy, breathing fresh life into Aisle’s foundational values of sustainability, transparency and body autonomy that have guided the brand for over three decades.”
Founded by a group of friends with period pain and endometriosis who needed better pain relief options, Vancouver-based Somedays is developing plastic-free products for period pain relief.
“Somedays is my retaliation for the 20 years I spent being invalidated, dismissed and ignored by a society that told me my pain was normal,” explained Perry.
“I had my first experience with debilitating period pain when I was hospitalised for it at nine years old. For the next 20 years, I was passed from physician to physician, trying to find answers and relief.
“I spent a decade on birth control and countless additional medications to combat the side effects of that. None of it worked. I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis in 2021.”
The company, famous for its viral period pain simulator videos with over three billion views, aims to bring a bold vision for the future of menstrual wellness and expand into menstrual healthcare services.
According to Perry, the acquisition of Aisle has the potential to propel the two companies into an exciting future where innovation and product development take centre stage.
“We envision a revolutionary approach to health that will boldly shape the future of menstrual care,” the founder said.
Virtual care platform raises US$10m to support women with common gynaecological conditions
Gynaecological health is one of the least prioritised areas of health globally, despite an enormous burden of morbidity and mortality
The US virtual care platform Allara has raised US$10m in Series A funding to support women with common hormonal and gynaecological conditions.
Allara is a specialty care platform for women living with complex hormonal and gynaecological conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.
The company aims to pair patients with specially trained doctors and dietitians to fill, what it describes as, a significant gap in women’s healthcare.
Globally, gynaecological health is one of the least prioritised areas of health, despite an enormous burden of morbidity and mortality.
Research shows over one in three women live with a chronic condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or hypothyroidism.
Despite this, women report years of suffering and go as many as 10 years undiagnosed. These conditions often cause complications such as infertility, high-risk pregnancies, obesity, and diabetes, as well as delayed diagnoses and treatments.
“Women’s health is often misperceived as limited to pregnancy and fertility, failing to acknowledge the intricate web of health conditions that affect women’s daily lives and long-term health,” said Rachel Blank, who founded Allara after her own difficulty navigating a PCOS diagnosis without sufficient medical support.
“At Allara, we finally take the burden off the patient to navigate a siloed care system and empower her with a whole-body, preventative approach to her health.”
The company’s latest round was led by Google Ventures, with participation from Great Oaks Venture Capital, Humbition, Vanterra, Gaingels, and individual investors, including Tom Lee (One Medical) and Maggie Sellers.
The start-up will use the new funds to expand access to care by extending its insurance coverage, launching partnerships with health systems and conducting clinical research.
Blank said: “We are grateful for the support of GV and our dedicated partners to scale our operations and extend this vital care offering to women nationwide.”
Frédérique Dame, GV general partner, added: “Women of reproductive age have complex hormonal care needs, and Allara raises the bar for clinically driven, personalised hormonal healthcare.
“Allara has built a brand and community that hundreds of thousands of patients trust, and we’re excited to support CEO Rachel Blank and the team as they provide women with compassionate, modern healthcare.”
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