It doesn’t take long to scroll through any social media platform before seeing photos of new babies. But for a lot of women, getting pregnant can be an isolating experience and take longer than expected. Increasingly, the healthcare innovation industry is seeing fertility-focused startups sprouting up to support women in their journey. Now big names in the field are getting involved.
Earlier this month, Rock Health founder Halle Tecco unveiled her next endeavor, a fertility company that sells scientifically proven products and gives online educational resources to women seeking to get pregnant. Dubbed The Natalist, Tecco teamed up with former Harvard researcher Dr. Elizabeth Kane and University of California, San Francisco OBGYN clinical instructor Dr. Naz Homaifar.
“There are a lot of things within fertility that add cost without improving outcomes, and so we wanted to make sure we felt good about the value we were adding to the healthcare system,” Tecco told MobiHealthnews. “So focusing on patient education and understanding your own fertility and your own fertile window and how to get pregnant is really at the core or the business. It is similar to Rock Health. You know at Rock Health we spent a lot of time with research and content, and breaking down what digital health is for our audience. I learned so much about content and education through that experience, and a lot of that I’m bringing to Natalist.”
Customers can purchase “The Get Pregnant Bundle,” which includes an ovulation test, pregnancy test, prenatal multivitamins, Omega DHA and a book about conception. The website also has a page called “What we don’t sell” that lists a variety of products from ovarian reserve testing to fertility crystals and outlines why the team didn’t think the science behind those tools was strong enough.
Tecco has been open about her own fertility journey and challenges, posting photos of herself before an IVF egg retrieval and images of fertility medications on her Twitter feed. This openness is something she said is also important for the company.
“Storytelling is really important. We do profiling on our Instagram page. Probably every other day we profile and quote a woman ... someone who has reached out to us and shared their story and given us permission to pass that on. But also we’ll profile some famous women,” she said. “That is part of breaking the stigma and normalizing the range of experiences that it takes to get pregnant.”
In addition to the products sold, one of the major focuses of the company is educating women.
“I think traditionally because we haven’t talked about fertility there is a lot of misunderstanding around how long it will actually take to get pregnant, and people who otherwise can control other factors in their life and are used to accomplishing anything they want are faced with all of a sudden not getting pregnant and what is wrong with me,” she said. “That happened to me. I was able to always follow the rules and do what I had to do to get the outcome that I desired, and with fertility a lot of it is unknown until you try.”
The platform also educates women about specific conditions that can impact their fertility, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. Both conditions are fairly common, with PCOS impacting between 6% and 12% of women according to the CDC and endometriosis impacting about 10% of women in their reproductive years.
“We are hoping that women can learn about things that may not just impact their health, but that may impact their friends and sisters and coworkers,” she said, "because there are conditions like PCOS that do have a high prevalence for women of a reproductive age. Knowledge is power, and being able to better understand any condition you live with is really important, but also to help others like your friends. If you don’t have PCOS, you know someone that does. We think we can help people not just understand their own condition but pass that knowledge along to others.”
Natalist is far from the only startup looking at fertility questions. While this company focuses on products, the digital health space is seeing a surge of tech products focused on helping achieve pregnancy. Venture capital dollars are pouring into the space as well. Just over the summer Modern Fertility closed a $15 million fundraise, MedAnswers landed $5 million to launch its FertilityAnswers tool, and male-focused fertility startup Dadi closed $5 million.
Tecco has been involved in this industry as well, investing in femtech companies. She said she has found some helpful in her own journey and predicts the industry will continue to see them grow
“I think we are going to continue to see people open up about their journeys,” she said, “and help others by doing that and opening up and sharing their own struggles.”