Giving birth is undoubtedly one of the most natural of all physiological experiences. Yet, its effects leave many lingering physical and psychological footprints on new mothers’ lives. Though most new moms recover and begin to adjust to motherhood within a couple of months, up to 1 in 3 will also struggle with postpartum depression.
Quite different from the transient “baby blues,” postpartum depression (or PPD, as it’s becoming better known) can last for months. PPD has been a recognized — but stigmatized — possibility during the so-called “fourth trimester of pregnancy” for generations. However, it is now being firmly addressed through femtech innovations.
What is femtech’s role in addressing healthcare gaps?
Femtech is an industry worth up to $1 billion, and it’s gaining momentum. Nearly every quarter, you can read stories about startups such as LEIA Health, which just raised €1.4 million in January 2023 from several venture fund investors. There’s little doubt that the investment community is putting money behind femtech products.
Unsurprisingly, more and more entrepreneurs are entering this space to fill women-focused gaps left behind by traditional providers, such as hospitals and insurance providers. Although there are many femtech areas for innovators to explore, postpartum and maternity do seem to be grabbing a lot of the early spotlight. Femtech solutions, apps, and products are taking away the stigma associated with talking about vaginal bleeding, breastfeeding, and the helplessness and identity loss that frequently occur as a woman embarks on motherhood.
It shouldn’t come as a huge shock that many femtech founders are gravitating toward finding ways to improve postpartum experiences, particularly when it comes to a mother’s postpartum mental health. Our society has grown more open about discussing mental health in general, so it’s only fair that femtech should offer a continuation of the discussion. And make no mistake: The discussion needs to be continued.
The system is created such that new mothers are asked routine questions following the birth of their child. But unfortunately, there aren’t easily accessible resources or avenues available to many of these women who really need someone to talk to. Often, new mothers are grappling with physical, mental, and emotional challenges — alongside a new baby — and struggle to navigate the complexities of our healthcare world to find the help they need.
Femtech products and solutions, such as Poppy Seed, are well-positioned to step in at this point and become those “lost” resources. Their emergence empowers women, especially marginalized women, diagnosed with (or with suspected) PPD to take charge of mapping their postpartum care plan and feel more in control in a new and important time of their lives. Poppy Seed provides on-demand and chat-based pregnancy, postpartum, and loss support. Users can reach doulas, midwives, and other advocates for nonmedical insights designed to make their fourth trimester of pregnancy less frustrating and more fulfilling.
The femtech health products LactApp and MyLee focus on the postpartum and lactation needs of new parents. Both are app-based solutions set up to help mothers gain a deeper understanding of how they’re lactating. This is another meaningful way femtech can support new moms as they navigate the many challenges of breastfeeding in those first few months.
Femtech innovations for equitable postpartum support
It’s worth noting that as exciting as femtech health products are in general, they’re positioned to do something quite incredible and needed: Solve healthcare disparities experienced by minority women. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States at 69.9 per 100,000 live births for 2021. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is almost three times the rate for White women. And for minority women, femtech products that are more accessible than traditional healthcare can be the difference between a new parent getting the care they need or continuing to suffer unseen.
Case in point: Look at products that provide access to low-cost therapy, such as the She Matters platform, which makes talk therapy more accessible (and budget-friendly) for Black moms. Remember that therapy sessions can cost up to $200 in the United States, putting them out of reach of many minority PPD sufferers without access to healthcare. She Matters provides a welcoming place for women to connect with affordable therapists who are trained to understand the Black mother cultural experience.
Femtech: Birthing breakthroughs for new moms
Healthcare is challenging to navigate under the best of circumstances. But when you have a new crying baby at home and are managing new mental health and physical challenges, it is completely exacerbated. Motherhood can be a beautiful journey, but many new mothers experience difficulties that they may not always be comfortable or willing to share. PPD affects 1 in 9 women, and with femtech health solutions, they have more avenues to improve their situations during the postpartum period and can hopefully start to recognize that they are not alone.
Editor’s note: The author has no relationship with the companies named in the article.