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Menopause goes high tech in 2023

Femtech is a term used to describe businesses leveraging technology to design solutions that focus on the unique health needs of women. As this global trend gathers momentum, what role can we expect technology to play in improving women's physical, mental, and emotional well-being in 2023?

Technology is helping bring innovative new health devices, wearables, and apps to unlock opportunities around stigmatized topics in female healthcare. For example, trackers help women manage their health and health-related data to enable self-care while improving diagnoses of issues and providing a more sensitive and tailored approach to care.

According to Precedence Research, the global femtech market will be worth more than $103 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 8.12% from 2022 to 2030. There is already a wide range of startups promising to transform everything from menstrual health, fertility management and menopause, with a significant influx of funding further fueling growth in this space.

Femtech to assist with menopause

Since 2015, venture capital funding in this emerging industry tripled from $600 million to $1.9 billion in 2021 and continues to go from strength to strength. Last year, high-profile celebrities from Michelle Obama to Courteney Cox brought the previously taboo topic of menopause into the mainstream. When combined with the reality of an additional 47 million women a year, making up 1.2 billion women around the world, suffering from the effects of the menopause, many brands are seeing a big business opportunity in femtech.

Women can suffer up to 48 different symptoms during menopause, the most common being hot flashes, mood changes, and sleep problems. But worryingly, it can also dramatically increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. As a result, Vira Health founders Andrea Berchowitz and Dr. Rebecca Love set out to improve the collection and use of female data in healthcare to pave the way for personalized treatments based on the unique symptoms of every menopausal woman.

The femtech company secured $12m (£9.2m) in a funding round last year that will also help deliver telehealth and prescription services to its menopause app. Another Menopause Startup also launched an AI-Powered App called Midday which leverages technology to provide personalized therapeutic strategies. Elsewhere, clothing retailer Primark quickly jumped on the trend in the UK by launching a menopause range featuring new cooling anti-flush technology.

Menstrual and feminine hygiene

It's estimated that approximately 80% of women worldwide experience period pain. Additionally, a woman typically spends an average of 10 years on her period throughout a lifetime. In the sports world alone, athletes, tennis, and soccer players have spoken openly about how menstruation impacts their sporting performance, mental health, and energy levels.

Despite the prevalence and impact of menstrual pain, the femtech industry has yet to fully address these issues and offer solutions to help alleviate discomfort for women. But much of this can be attributed to a lack of interest from predominantly male venture capitalists. These sentiments were echoed by a female founder who recalled a biotech VC bluntly told her that they "didn't invest in femtech," – heavily suggesting that the female aspect was a disqualifying factor.

However, women rightly expect more than a hot water bottle and a handful of painkillers every month. Here in 2023, we could see the breakout moment where femtech funding no longer lags behind the media hype. In a digital world where algorithms determine everything we see and hear, many women are increasingly turning to tech to predict and better manage their periods and fertility windows while also better-anticipating stress levels.

The Bellabeat Leaf Urban has been on the market for a few years and remains one of the few wearables designed for women to help them track activity, sleep, and reproductive health. The data collected, combined with a distinct algorithm, calculates the wearer's resistance to stress. Some femtech gadgets, such as the Aroma season electric menstrual heating pad, take a more practical approach for discreet cramp relief as it is strapped to the stomach underneath a woman's clothes.

Femtech is no longer considered a niche market

Even though half of the global population is female, the femtech industry has historically received less funding and attention than other sectors of the healthcare industry. Biases and stereotypes around women's health are the usual suspects, combined with a lack of understanding of the unique health needs of women and the potential benefits of addressing them through technology.

However, we are finally seeing an increasing recognition of the importance of addressing women's health and the potential for technology to play a role in this. As a result, the femtech industry has received more attention and investment, empowering startups to develop technology and products specifically designed to support women's health.

There is still a long way to go in closing the gap in women's healthcare, but the growing attention and investment in the femtech industry is a positive step in the right direction. However, more research and clinical trials need to be conducted in this area to understand the unique needs and problems experienced by women.

A quick look around the show floor at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas reveals thousands of tech gadgets that are merely a solution looking for a problem. In 2023, we can expect more research, funding, and investment in this area to develop technology and products that effectively address menstrual pain and improve women's overall health and well-being.

Last year saw public awareness around women's health issues enter the mainstream. Women will no longer accept the barriers of stigma, taboo, and a hot water bottle or fan as the only solutions. The growth in the femtech industry proves that we are finally heading in the right direction. However, why it took so long for the world of tech to wake up to solving the real problems experienced by billions of women is a much bigger question that needs answering.

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