Unpacking Women’s Health & Wellbeing

This one’s for female founders, investors and enthusiasts. We share the latest insights and data about the state of entrepreneurship in the realm of women’s health and well-being.

Jana Meister
08 April 2024
6 min read

The systematic challenges, gaps and inequalities

Historically, women’s health has faced systemic challenges within the medical community, marked by stigma, neglect, and dismissal. Research disparities persist as male-dominated medical and scientific fields overlook women’s health concerns, perpetuating a cycle of neglect. Conditions such as migraines, endometriosis, and anxiety disorders, predominantly affecting women, receive disproportionately less funding and attention, exacerbating disparities. The underrepresentation of women in clinical trials further limits research findings and treatment options. A McKinsey study highlights the alarming discrepancy between the prevalence of women’s health conditions and their documented diagnoses, with roughly four women undiagnosed for every diagnosed case, contrasting sharply with men’s health conditions where the difference narrows to approximately 1.5 times.

The blue ocean opportunity

It is evident that solutions addressing women’s health issues have been significantly underfunded, with companies dedicated to female health and well-being receiving only 1% of healthtech investment in 2022. Despite this, the total addressable market (TAM) for women’s health & well-being encompasses over half of the world’s population, presenting a vast opportunity for growth and impact. A recent report from McKinsey highlights the potential economic productivity boost of at least $1 trillion annually by supporting 4.1 billion women in living healthier, higher-quality lives. This investment gap in Female Health & Wellbeing not only reflects broader systemic biases but also emphasizes the urgent need for increased support and resources for women in entrepreneurship and healthcare innovation. Investors, entrepreneurs, and established life sciences incumbents all have crucial roles to play in investing in new ventures focused on generating women’s health data and understanding the impact of sex-driven differences on health outcomes.

Disrupting the status quo

Despite these challenges, a growing number of female leaders, researchers, and entrepreneurs are driving innovation and change in the Female Health & Wellbeing landscape. Market research and data analytics, exemplified by platforms such as FemHealth Insights, play a pivotal role in providing invaluable insights and guidance for investment and innovation in women-centric healthcare solutions.

Source: Own Illustration

Opportunity 1: Period starts

As girls enter puberty and start experiencing their periods, there are plenty of entrepreneurial opportunities to tap into. From offering straightforward menstrual education to providing a variety of menstrual products like pads, tampons, and menstrual cups, there’s a growing market for solutions that cater to different needs and preferences.

Success Stories from the Nordic startup ecosystem:
Grace Health
(Stockholm, Sweden) is solving the current problem of accessibility and discretion of women’s health services and information by delivering a platform to the 1.9 billion women in emerging markets who own a phone.

(founded in Denmark, relocated to the US) is on a mission to keep all people who menstruate healthy over time. Their Q-Pad provides a needle-free, convenient alternative to lab blood testing using menstrual blood.

Opportunity 2: Starts exploring sexuality

As individuals start exploring their sexuality, there are also opportunities for entrepreneurs to step in and provide support. For instance, sex education can be made more accessible and engaging through online resources or workshops that cover everything from consent to contraception. Offering a variety of contraceptives, from condoms to birth control options, can help individuals make informed choices about their sexual health.

Success Stories from the Nordic startup ecosystem:
OhCleo (Stockholm, Sweden) offers informative content and erotic stories, based on the science-backed idea that pleasure is health.

(Copenhagen, Denmark) offers a novel approach to birth control, aiming to reinforce the natural cervical mucus barrier to provide effective birth control on demand without any hormones.

Natural Cycles
(Stockholm, Sweden) developed the only digital method of birth control that allows its users to get to know their bodies and cycles.

Opportunity 3: Thinks about starting a family

When individuals start thinking about starting a family, a range of entrepreneurial opportunities emerges to support them in this significant life decision. One avenue is providing options for conceiving, including fertility tracking devices, ovulation kits, and resources for optimizing fertility health through lifestyle changes. Additionally, addressing reproductive health disorders such as endometriosis presents an opportunity for startups to develop innovative treatments and support services. Egg freezing technologies have also gained popularity, providing individuals with the option to preserve their fertility for the future.

Success Stories from the Nordic startup ecosystem:
(Stockholm, Sweden), founded in 2012, is an app that works as a virtual midwife, supplying users with information about how their baby is growing and what the changes in their body mean.

Baby Journey (Stockholm, Sweden) is designed to reduce loneliness during pregnancy and increase togetherness among pregnant women. The user can follow other people’s pregnancies and get information from licensed healthcare professionals when needed.

wawa fertility
(Copenhagen, Denmark) is a support system for fertility patients, designed as a personal assistant, that works to provide the most comprehensive treatment, including medical and mental health support.

Opportunity 4: Post-pregnancies

Following pregnancy, there are numerous avenues for supporting new parents during the postpartum period, from breastfeeding and lactation support to postpartum recovery and mental health support for postpartum depression and anxiety is also crucial, with opportunities for startups to provide online counseling services, support groups, and mental wellness apps designed specifically for new parents.

Success Stories from the Nordic startup ecosystem:
(Frederiksberg, Denmark) supports pregnant women and mothers in their journey through motherhood, offering a wide range of products, including nursing bras, nursing pads and maternity clothes.

Nucu (Oulu, Finland) helps babies to sleep better. With better sleep for the baby comes better sleep for everyone. Nucu’s mission is to help caregivers provide babies with the best combination of positive stimulation and developmental sleep during the crucial first years of life and development.

Nordic Fit Mama (Helsinki, Finland) offers a 6-week online training program, that helps women to recover post-baby body in a safe way. All exercises are medically approved and recommended by gynecologists, midwives and physiotherapists.

Opportunity 5: Menopause

Entrepreneurial opportunities also arise as women enter menopause, a phase marked by significant physical and emotional changes. Entrepreneurs can tap into the need for tools that track shifts in sexual health and libido during this time, providing personalized support through digital platforms or apps. Additional opportunities lie for example in offering screening programs for age-related health concerns such as breast cancer, providing accessible and comprehensive preventive care for women navigating this life transition.

Success Stories from the Nordic startup ecosystem:
Olivia (Stockholm, Sweden) offers research-based knowledge, individual guidance, and concrete tools for the 47 million women going through menopause every year.

Femilog® (Copenhagen, Denmark) offers its users peace of mind, confidence and an improved quality of life during menopause. Additionally, users have the option to anonymously share their data, contributing to bridging the research gap on the changes that occur in the female body during menopause.

The future is promising, yet it's only the beginning

In Europe, femtech VC investment is predominantly focused on Menstruation Care and Reproductive Health, with General Health and Wellness following closely behind. This year, the women’s health sector is anticipated to emerge as one of the top three recipients of funding, experiencing a remarkable 314% increase in investments, contrasting with the modest 28% increase observed in overall healthcare investments. Noteworthy successes, such as Maven Clinic and Elvie reaching unicorn status, underscore the industry’s vast potential for investors, entrepreneurs, and women alike. However, while progress has been made, achieving genuine equity and access in women’s healthcare remains a distant aspiration. While innovations are a significant stride forward, they alone are insufficient. Thus, comprehensive changes across policy, funding, outreach, and outcomes are imperative to address the diverse needs of women as our journey unfolds.

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