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Is femtech finally getting the attention it deserves?

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Proptech, medtech, commtech – the digital revolution over the past decade has paved the way for technology to infiltrate every facet of our lives (both personal and professional) to make every day even easier.

While many viewed this as merely a ‘fad’ in the early days, more and more people, businesses and investors are starting to realise, acknowledge and admit that technology is clearly the way forward, and must be integrated into everyday life.

But it’s not simply being able to virtually tour a property, diagnose over the internet, or communicate with colleagues and counterparts all over the globe that technology can help with, it’s now having an impact on an often neglected element of healthcare: women’s health.

What is femtech?

Generally speaking, and according to femtechinsider.com, ‘femtech’ refers to: “software, diagnostics, products and services that use technology to support women’s health”.

The categorisation came about accidentally after the founder of period tracking app Clue, Ida Tun, introduced it as such to her mainly male investors.

While it has come under some scrutiny for not being inclusive (by definition excluding trans men), and that it is liable to encourage the Pink Tax, these are often refuted due to the latter mainly being aimed at products rather than services, and the fact that it is often understood as ‘a technology that improves women’s lives’ to counter the former (as that’s exactly what it does – more medtech, less lifestyle).

Femtech is more than period trackers; the category now encompasses pregnancy, sexual health, chronic disease and maternal care amongst many other.

What’s going on with Femtech investment?

While appetite for anything technology related is increasing, the world has started to realise that female consumer power has arrived – and the force is strong.

Global venture capital investment in femtech surpassed $1.2 billion for the first time ever in 2021 with some very big deals crossing the line ($80 million in Elvie, $75 million in Carrot and $50 million in Flo).

And while some deals are big, others are gigantic. Understood to be the largest amount of femtech funding raised ever, Maven Clinic reached unicorn status with investment of $110 million.

And the big factor? Women are more engaged in healthcare than men. In the US, women spend $500 million a year on medical expenses, and a survey by the US Department of Labor found that women make 70 per cent of the family’s healthcare decisions.

What’s behind this boom in investment?

For many, there are two key trends: Covid and feminism.

Across almost every industry, experts claim technological advancement accelerated spectacularly from March 2020, with projects expected to be completed within five years often being finished within eight weeks to meet a growing need.

While this undoubtably had an impact on femtech’s development, it was already well on its way thanks to the ongoing wave of female empowerment (supported by events such as the #MeToo movement), enabling half the world’s population to realise that there is a significant lack of solutions tailored to them.

So, they built them as the pandemic exposed the challenges women face when it comes to their health.

The prolonged lockdowns, for example, disproportionately impacted women dealing with the higher burden of housework, and domestic abuse against them also increased.

In an interview with Omnia Health, Das, an industry analyst, noted that “during the pandemic, women’s health worldwide suffered intensely, right from increased mental health issues to a surge in unwanted pregnancies and stillbirths”.

As Covid 19 simultaneously fuelled the popularity of online health tools, there had never been a better time for femtech to flourish.

What’s in the future for Femtech?

In 2020, only 2.3 per cent of venture capital funding went to female-led startups. As 90 per cent of investment decision makers are male, femtech developers are not only encountering the usual funding stumbling blocks, but mighty hurdles in the form of lack of understanding by those they are pitching to. Their issues aren’t understood, so why should their solutions be?

There is light at the end of the tunnel however.

While many femtech firms focus on menstruation and reproductive health, space is available for more taboo – and often uncomfortable – topics such as menopause, sex and other urogenital health matters to come to the fore.

By 2023, for example, figures from the Female Founders Fund suggest that 1.1 billion women will be postmenopausal – a huge market and spectacular opportunity for innovation and development.

Businesses and apps such as mySysters have already set waves in motion to support those going through perimenopause or menopause – an often confusing and misunderstood time.

What the future holds, we just don’t know. But what we do know is that thanks to bold innovators, the future of female health is digital – we just need to make sure people understand how vital it is!

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Apricity Fertility launches new Freeze and Share programme

The Freeze and Share programme offers a solution for women who wish to preserve their fertility

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In response to the growing demand for affordable fertility options and the pressing need for egg donors, the UK virtual fertility clinic Apricity has launched an innovative Freeze and Share programme.

The initiative is designed to make egg freezing more accessible and cost-effective while simultaneously addressing the shortage of donor eggs in the UK.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of women choosing to freeze their eggs. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the number of egg freezing cycles in the UK has surged by 81 per cent to 2022. Despite this growing trend, the high costs associated with the procedure—typically upwards of £5000—have made it unaffordable for many.

The Freeze and Share programme offers a solution for women who wish to preserve their fertility; by opting to share their eggs, they can substantially reduce the cost of egg freezing.

This act not only makes the procedure more affordable but also provides much longer for donor eggs for those that need them.

Addressing the egg donor shortage

The UK faces a shortage of egg donors, with many patients experiencing long waiting times for a donor. Current statistics reveal that one in six IVF cycles are donation cycles in the UK, yet demand far outstrips supply.

Prospective parents can wait up to two years to find a suitable donor, and for many they decide to travel abroad to places like Spain and Cyprus. This brings different considerations for patients as egg donation in other countries is regulated differently to the UK, with most egg donation being completely anonymous. 

Apricity’s new programme directly addresses this gap by encouraging egg sharing. Participants in the Freeze and Share programme can donate a portion of their eggs to be used by individuals or couples in need, thereby reducing waiting times and helping more people achieve their dreams of parenthood.

“We are incredibly proud to launch our Freeze and Share Programme, which represents a significant advancement in our fertility services,” said Mel Chacksfield, CEO of Apricity Fertility.

“This new service will not only make egg freezing more accessible and affordable to the many women who may not usually have the chance to preserve their fertility, but will also mean we can better support our families and parents that rely on donor eggs to start their families.

“Our commitment to providing personalised care through innovation in the sector continues to drive us forward, ensuring we meet the evolving needs of all our patients”

To be eligible for egg sharing, women will need to meet specific criteria such as BMI, age and ovarian reserve. They will have unlimited counselling throughout the process to ensure they are fully informed and supported from the start.

Women who choose to participate in the Freeze and Share programme will then undergo the standard egg freezing process. A portion of the retrieved eggs will be frozen for their personal use, while the remaining eggs will be donated to Apricity’s frozen egg donor bank.

This mutually beneficial arrangement ensures that participants receive significant financial relief while offering a lifeline to those in need of donor eggs.

For more information on Freeze & Share visit Apricity’s website 

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Endometriosis needs to be taken as seriously as diabetes, says report

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A new report, which called for “urgent” changes in endometriosis care, has said the condition should be taken as seriously as diabetes.

The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) report examined the long-standing issues faced by women with endometriosis in the UK.

The study stated that endometriosis should be treated as a chronic condition and taken as seriously as illnesses such as diabetes and bowel disease.

Currently, endometriosis symptoms are treated as multiple isolated episodes, with symptoms often going unrecognised by healthcare practitioners as potentially being endometriosis.

The report recommended that training for healthcare professionals should be improved to recognise the symptoms of endometriosis and that patients should be asked about how the condition affects them beyond just the physical symptoms.

Professor Andrew Horne, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Reproductive Health, said: “Endometriosis is frequently treated as a series of acute episodes rather than as a continuous, chronic condition. This fragmented care model overlooks the necessity for ongoing, comprehensive management, which is crucial.

“The NCEPOD report recognises the gaps in our current approach and provides important actionable guidance to drive improvements in endometriosis care.”

Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, said: “NCEPOD’s report clearly evidences the issues faced today by those with endometriosis, and the recommendations show how improvements can – and must – be made. Implementing these will not only reduce suffering for those with endometriosis, it will also save the NHS time and resources.

“The report comes at a perfect time; we have a new government who have committed to no longer neglect women’s health, and to prioritise women’s health as the NHS is reformed.”

Dr Katy Vincent, associate professor in the Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health, University of Oxford, added: “Endometriosis affects all areas of life and the information collected by this enquiry starkly illustrates the challenges that those with the condition experience.

“I am particularly pleased to see that the report highlights the need for holistic, multi-disciplinary care and for a pathway that takes into account the chronic nature of the disease, as these are areas that I have long considered need improvement.”

She continued: “I hope that those who contributed their experiences to the report feel they were heard and that clinicians and policy makers can now take these findings on board to urgently improve care for this common condition.”

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Daye launches workplace app to plug gaps in female healthcare support

The service helps promote health equity in the workplace by providing vital resources to support women’s health conditions

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The award-winning UK gynaecological health company Daye has launched its new workplace app, Daye for Work.

The app can be offered to employees across the UK as a workplace benefit, providing them with much-needed access to services that are often lacking from the NHS and even private healthcare companies.

Women face a widening gap in healthcare provision, with three-quarters saying they cannot access the services they need and 84 per cent reporting not being listened to by a healthcare professional.

Health issues can have a big impact on women’s careers, with three in five women saying a female health condition has affected them in the workplace.

However, support for women’s health is often lacking in the workplace. According to Benden Health, four in ten women have heard derogatory comments about a female employee’s health in the workplace.

As a result, 42 per cent of females admit that they are uncomfortable discussing health issues with their manager.

In addition, more than two thirds of female employees (70 per cent) have found it difficult to deal with periods at work and 64 per cent have faced challenges when experiencing menopause.

Offering support to employees struggling with female health conditions can help attract and retain staff, with 70 per cent of workers willing to change jobs for women’s health benefits.

Daye for Work provides an accessible and personalised service for women and assigned female at birth (AFAB) individuals.

Through the app, employees of businesses who sign up for Daye for Work can access Daye’s Menstrual Health Programme, which provides access to period pain support, plugging a major gap in healthcare provision as it can take years to diagnose conditions linked to menstrual health, such as endometriosis and adenomyosis.

Currently, menstrual pain support is also not offered by major private healthcare providers. Yet period pain can be so severe that nearly a quarter of women (23 per cent) have taken time off work for menstrual symptoms in the last six months, with nine days of productivity per woman lost every year, according to the British Medical Journal.

In monetary terms, women can lose tens of thousands during their careers as they are forced to take time off work.

Daye for Work also offers a Gynae Health Screening Programme, where users can access specialists for gynaecological-related health issues, such as recurrent vaginal infections, which is another service lacking through the NHS and private healthcare companies.

While users can access help from leading specialists through instant virtual appointments, Daye also offers at-home diagnostic tampon tests that can detect vaginal infections and STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and soon they will also be able to detect HPV, which is the biggest cause of cervical cancer.

Users receive clear, actionable results via the platform and have prescriptions delivered to their homes.

Daye also offers educational support programmes, including workshops and webinars covering hot topics in female health, and HR policy and internal comms support. Employees signed up through their company get 20 per cent off products on the Daye website.

Valentina Milanova, founder and CEO of Daye, said: “Gaps in women’s health provision are impacting workplaces all over the UK. Female and AFAB staff are regularly forced to take time off while struggling to access much-needed support, advice and diagnosis, hitting workplace productivity and all too often being detrimental to women’s careers.

“Daye for Work will play a vital role in plugging the gaps in female healthcare, offering services that take years to access on the NHS and aren’t available from private healthcare providers.

“Offering such tailored support is transformational for workplace culture, making staff feel valued and understood, while also helping to attract and retain talent.”

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