Connect with us

News

The femtech pioneers making headlines this year

Published

on

This year seems to have been a pivotal moment for the femtech market, with some experts predicting it to be worth US$60bn by 2027.

What started off with period tracking apps has developed into a lucrative industry, tapping into what has traditionally been a somewhat neglected field of healthcare. While medical expenses attributed to women amount to approximately US$500 billion per year, only four per cent of healthcare R&D is targeted at women’s health issues.

Added to this a global pandemic, where we’ve all struggled to see a healthcare provider face-to-face, and it appears women are taking their healthcare into their own hands.

From fertility trackers to breastfeeding and menopause support, 2021 has been the year of femtech – with 2022 looking set to bring more of the same. Here are some of 2021’s femtech headline makers…

Health and reproductive care

Start-up Hertility Health raised £4.2m in seed funding earlier this year to help grow its hormone and reproductive health-related product range.

The funding will help the firm expand its current product offering of fertility and hormone testing, along with menopause, miscarriage, postnatal care, polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis testing.

It will also support the expansion of its current clinical trials, which aim to reduce the diagnosis time for some of the most common reproductive conditions.

Hertility Health helps women to understand their reproductive health and infertility risks, working with experts to provide personalised care pathways for all aspects of women’s health, including symptom management, egg freezing and IVF.

It was founded by female scientists while on maternity leave and launched during lockdown last year, as demand surged for remote and accessible help as a result of the pandemic.

Hashimoto’s disease

Hashimoto’s disease is a condition with nearly 500 million sufferers worldwide.

It affects the thyroid, which is responsible for hormones by regulating the processes in the cells of almost all systems in our body, such as immune, endocrine, digestive, nervous and reproductive.

Diagnosis can take up to eight years as there are thought to be 45 different symptoms, and women are five to eight times more likely to suffer than men.

One of these women is Eva Galant, founder and CEO of Hashiona, an app that helps sufferers to change their daily habits and put the disease into remission.

The app was launched last year and has already attracted more than 10,000 users, mainly women, suffering from Hashimoto’s disease and thyroid-related conditions.

Its interactive design contains videos, infographics, articles and tests, all designed to help achieve remission in 20 weeks.

Periods and exercise

In 2019, Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill launched Jennis, a fitness app to help women perform safe post-natal workouts.

In 2021, the app added a cycle-mapping function, which helps amateur exercise fans train, eat and sleep in patterns that work with their hormonal cycles.

Recommendations are varied across the four phases of a menstrual cycle, as this helps to create more efficient training programs, lean muscle gains and increased energy levels.

Jessica said: “By making it easier for women to understand their cycles, I want to help women all over the world feel better, train better and understand their bodies better. That’s a legacy I will be really proud of.”

Conception support

Femometer is a Chinese-based firm that has developed a number of smart devices for women’s health and wellbeing.

Its first product was a basal thermometer, which can act as a natural contraception method or help women who are trying to conceive, followed in 2019 by Femometer Ivy, which monitors luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, to help women determine when they are ovulating.

Earlier this year, the company launched Lilac, which it claimed was the first smart Kegel exerciser on the market to help women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles.

The silicon device has 360-degree pressure detection and connects via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone, providing real-time biofeedback through the Femometer app.

Increasing representation

In April, Bristol-based innovation and product development agency, Kinneir Dufort (KD), launched an initiative called XXEquals, the UK’s first mostly female team designing products for women across the consumer, industrial and medical markets.

Around half of the world’s population is female and women buy 85 per cent of household products, yet data shows only five per cent of the product and design industry is female.

Inspired by the growing need to design more female-focused products in the femtech space, XXEquals is working on projects including smart femcare solutions which monitor and diagnose women’s health conditions, digital ecosystems delivering personalised health and wellness solutions for women and voice recognition software.

The agency has previously developed women-centred products including a breast scanning bed and a device to increase success during IVF.

 

 

News

Women with endometriosis face fourfold higher risk of ovarian cancer, study finds

Published

on

The risk of developing ovarian cancer could jump about fourfold among women with endometriosis compared with women without the condition, a new study has found.

A landmark study from researchers at the University of Utah and Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine found that women with severe endometriosis are 10 times more likely to get ovarian cancer compared to women who do not have the disease.

Prior studies have shown a causal connection between endometriosis and ovarian cancer but in using the Utah Population Database, a repository of linked health records housed at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, investigators were able to analyse the incidence rates of different types of endometriosis and subtypes of ovarian cancer for the first time.

Their research, which included a cohort of over 78,000 women with endometriosis, found that women with severe forms — either deep infiltrating endometriosis, ovarian endometriomas or both — have an overall ovarian cancer risk that’s “markedly increased,” at about 9.7 times higher, relative to women without endometriosis.

Women with deep infiltrating endometriosis, ovarian endometriomas or both, on the other hand, appear to face nearly 19 times the risk of type I ovarian cancer, which tends to grow more slowly, compared with women without endometriosis, according to the study.

In their calculations, researchers also found that women with any kind of endometriosis have a 4.2-fold risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to those who do not.

“These are really important findings,” said Jennifer Doherty, investigator and professor of the population health sciences department at the University of Utah.

“This impacts clinical care for individuals with severe endometriosis, since they would benefit from counselling about ovarian cancer risk and prevention.

“This research will also lead to further studies to understand the mechanisms through which specific types of endometriosis cause different types of ovarian cancer.”

However, women with endometriosis should not panic about the findings, researchers noted, because ovarian cancer itself is still rare. About 1.1 per cent of US women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“Because of the rarity of ovarian cancer, the association with endometriosis only increased the number of cancer cases by 10 to 20 per 10,000 women,” Karen Schliep, senior author of the study and an associate professor in the Division of Public Health at the University of Utah School of Medicine, told CNN.

“We would not recommend, at this point, any change in clinical care or policy. The best way of preventing ovarian cancer is still the recommendation of exercise, not smoking and limiting alcohol.”

Women with endometriosis could pursue surgeries, such as hysterectomies or removal of the ovaries, investigators said. However, since these are invasive procedures, more research is needed to know if these are the right measures, they concluded.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

Continue Reading

News

Study exposes gaps in menstrual health education in English schools

Published

on

A new study has revealed significant inadequacies in menstrual health education provision in English schools.

New research, led by the University of Bristol and Anglia Ruskin University, has highlighted a lack of practical information being offered, pupils being taught too late, and attitudes that perpetuate stigma across English schools.

Ten per cent of young women surveyed in the study, which sought to understand what and how menstrual health education information was delivered in English schools, did not receive or remember receiving any menstrual health education. Of those pupils who did, up to one in five did not receive education until after they had started their period.

Researchers surveyed 140 young women aged 18-24, who had attended either a private or state-funded primary and secondary school, on their menstrual health education. Of these, 99.3 per cent had experienced menstruation.

Participants were asked to take part in online surveys and in-depth interviews to share their experiences including what and how information was provided at school and reflect on their thoughts and feelings about their education.

From the survey results, researchers found lessons focussed on biological content with a lack of practical information needed to help students manage menstruation and menstrual health, with nearly seven in ten participants having reportedly received no practical information. None of the participants were taught about menstrual health conditions and only 3.2 per cent learnt about abnormal symptoms.

Serious long-term impacts were reported, as several participants put off seeking medical attention for debilitating symptoms because they thought their pain was normal, only to be later diagnosed with conditions such as endometriosis.

Overall, participants left school lacking basic knowledge and feeling ill-equipped with 62.4 per cent rating their education as “poor” or “very poor” in preparing them for managing menstruation.

In extreme cases, some were so unprepared that when they started their periods, they thought they were ill or even dying.

While schools were seen as an important source of information, many participants admitted that they had to rely on other sources, particularly the internet and social media.

Poppy Taylor, PhD researcher in population health sciences at the University of Bristol, and corresponding author, said: “Given the evidence that girls are starting their periods at ever-younger ages, there are concerns this will be too late for an increasing number of people. Denying young people with information about their bodies risks significant long-term harm.

“Our research provides strong evidence that the education system has been failing young girls and people who menstruate. We were shocked and disappointed, but sadly not surprised, with our findings.”

Globally, menstrual health is a key issue for gender equality. When menstrual needs are unmet, it can create barriers to education and employment, pose long-term health risks and threaten human rights.

Evidence suggests that persistent stigma and lack of public understanding about menstruation is preventing such needs from being met in the UK.

“Our findings suggest that for many young people, the menstrual health education they received failed to prepare them physically, mentally, or socially for their first period,” Taylor explained.

“We recommend that menstrual health education is improved through the delivery of earlier, more inclusive lessons with more practical content to ensure all young people are equipped to manage their menstrual health in a supportive environment.

“To support the UK government’s target of eradicating period stigma and poverty by 2030, universally accessible and comprehensive menstrual health education must be prioritised.”

The authors acknowledged that the reported experiences in the study, particularly from older participants, may not reflect current practices.

Due to the small sample size, they said, further research is needed to explore the experiences of students who are currently in the schooling system and to understand whether and how practices have changed.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

Continue Reading

News

Maternal mental health start-up bags US$10.9m in series A funding

Seven Starling aims to help women navigate critical periods in their lives with evidence-based mental health support

Published

on

The US start-up Seven Starling has secured US$10.9m in series A funding to address unmet needs in women’s mental health.

More than 90 per cent of women do not seek help for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders due to high barriers including a shortage of therapists, limited in-network coverage and mental health stigma.

These conditions affect one in five women during the motherhood journey, yet only 20 per cent are screened for mental health issues, and 75 per cent of those who need treatment do not receive it.

Seven Starling aims to address these challenges by making its services accessible through its in-network coverage, integrated group therapy model, and partnerships with referring providers to make the process of getting started easier for patients.

The investment round, led by RH Capital, is hoped to expand access to essential mental health services for women going through critical periods, such as infertility, miscarriage and loss, pregnancy, postpartum and motherhood.

“We are thrilled to have successfully raised this round of funding, which will allow us to expand our reach and help more women who need support during critical life transitions,” said Tina Beilinson Keshani, co-founder and CEO of Seven Starling.

“This investment is a testament to the demand for a dedicated women’s mental health solution and our commitment to providing accessible, high-quality care. With the new funding, we will continue to successfully reduce the stigma around women’s mental health and ensure that every woman has access to the care she needs, when she needs it.”

The capital raised from this round, Keshani said, would be used to “fuel” national expansion, partnering with Medicaid plans, and developing innovative technology to further integrate with healthcare partners.

Alice Zheng, principal at RH Capital, said: “We are proud to partner with Seven Starling in this new chapter to expand access to maternal mental healthcare, an area of significant need.

“We are excited by the comprehensive and scalable offerings, including group therapy to expand access. As a recent mum of two myself, I have been shocked by the lack of perinatal mental health support available relative to need and am thankful to see Seven Starling filling that gap.”

Mar Hershenson, founder of Pear VC, added: “Seven Starling is addressing a huge problem not just around motherhood but the entire female lifespace from adolescence to menopause.

“Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, but lack a tailored solution designed to meet their unique needs. Pear has partnered with Seven Starling since day one and we are excited to double down on them.”

Kelly Ernst, March of Dimes SVP, chief impact officer, said mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, are among the most common complications for women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

“However, many do not receive treatment they desperately need, which can lead to long lasting clinical, social, and economic consequences,” she explained.

“When these conditions are effectively treated and managed, everyone benefits. We’re proud to be investors in Seven Starling and look forward to seeing how their innovative and comprehensive approach improves the mental healthcare needs of women across the country.”

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2023 Aspect Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.