What is femtech?
Femtech is a term that refers to diagnostic tools, products, services, wearables and software that use technology to address women's health issues, including menstrual health, reproductive health, sexual health, maternal health and menopause. Femtech companies also provide products that encompass general health conditions that affect more women than men or affect them differently than they affect men, such as osteoporosis.
Ida Tin, co-founder of Clue, a menstrual health app, is credited with coining the term femtech in 2016. At the time, the Danish entrepreneur noted that femtech was a new and huge category that addressed female healthcare needs through technology.
In the past, there hadn't been much public discussion about women's health and reproductive issues. Today, however, femtech startups have brought these issues into the mainstream. From January through August 2021, U.S. digital health startups catering to women raised $1.3 billion -- almost twice the $774 million raised throughout 2020, according to a report by Rock Health, a venture capital firm that supports digital health startups.
Valued at $22 billion in December 2021, the global femtech market is set to grow at a rate of 15% over the next five years, in part because of the increased adoption of telemedicine, advances in technology, the growing emphasis on sexual empowerment and reproductive health in developing countries, as well as the fact that women are becoming more aware of how important it is to detect illnesses as soon as possible to manage them more effectively.
Why is femtech important?
There are several reasons femtech is important, including the following:
- Improves the delivery of care. Virtual clinics, direct-to-consumer prescription delivery services and innovative physical clinics give women a more convenient, consumer-friendly way to access healthcare.
- Facilitates self-care. Wearable devices, healthcare trackers and at-home diagnostics provided by femtech companies help women take better charge of their health and health-related data.
- Addresses stigmatized topics. Femtech companies are addressing head-on topics once considered taboo, such as sexual health, menopause and menstrual health.
- Delivers culturally sensitive and tailored care. Femtech companies are tailoring their products and services to marginalized groups, including Black women, women in low- and middle-income countries, and LGBTQ populations.
- Better suited to understanding the needs of women. Since femtech companies are mainly established and headed by women, they can better understand women's needs and problems. In addition, they can fulfill the needs of groups and individuals.
- Reduces the issue of gender inequality in tech. In addition to freeing up women from gender stereotypes, femtech promotes and acknowledges talented and worthy female technicians and scientists, as well as provides them with more opportunities for employment.
Femtech companies and products
As the industry grows and investment into femtech increases, the list of available products continues to rise. Currently, some popular companies in the femtech space include the following:
- Clue. A menstrual health app developed by co-founder and CEO Ida Tin. The app aims to combine technology and science to change society's views on menstrual and reproductive health.
- Glow. A fertility app created by data science company Glow that provides ovulation, pregnancy and women's health information.
- Natural Cycles. Developed by physicist Elina Berglund and her husband, Raoul Scherwitzl, this app is powered by an algorithm that determines women's fertility status based on their basal body temperatures.
- Ava. A smart fertility tracker bracelet, Ava caters specifically to women trying to become pregnant by providing data-driven fertility support. Ava tracks five physiological signals and can accurately predict ovulation and a woman's next fertile window.
- Bonzun. A femtech company founded by women, Bonzun offers Bonzun IVF, a personalized in vitro fertilization app developed to improve a woman's chances to succeed with fertility treatments.
- Bloomlife. This company creates a remote prenatal care platform that brings together technology, data science and medical knowledge to enhance the quality of care for women. Bloomlife also enables women to rent wearable devices that provide analytics and personalized feedback so that pregnant women and doctors can better predict and manage pregnancy complications.
- Coroflo. This femtech company has developed a breastfeeding monitor that lets mothers know how much milk is flowing through to the baby. The device, which connects to a smartphone app, enables users to track in real time how much breast milk a baby has consumed and how that compares with how much babies of similar ages consume.
- Apricity. A virtual fertility clinic, Apricity uses artificial intelligence to increase the chances of conceiving for women who have had problems getting pregnant in the past. Users can be paired with Apricity advisers to discuss their health background and fertility history. Women can also arrange consultations with one of the fertility clinics collaborating with Apricity.
Femtech ethical concerns
Even though women make 80% of decisions related to their families' health and typically spend more than men on healthcare, only about 3% of the digital health investments have focused on women's health since 2011.
As such, some experts say the term femtech shouldn't be used as it implies that the women's healthcare market is a small, specialized market, rather than a chance to offer healthcare advances for some 3.9 billion individuals. It's also often difficult for femtech companies to raise capital because investors are sometimes not interested in ideas related to women's issues.
In addition, femtech companies need to balance their innovations in femtech with data security and privacy concerns. Femtech apps can store users' sensitive personal health information, such as whether they're pregnant, their menstrual cycles, cancer-related health data and their sexual activity.
However, currently there aren't any regulations or standards in place to deal with privacy and security issues on healthcare apps. Consequently, femtech companies need to ensure they have the security measures in place to keep attackers from accessing user data. Femtech companies also need to tell their users what data they plan to collect and what they're going to do with it.