To many women, FemTech, or female technology, is…kind of a buzzword. What it means and what it does, you may only generally understand. The fact of the matter is that the term (and industry) isn’t going anywhere — in fact, it’s only getting bigger. Today there are hundreds of products within this growing market— estimated to reach $50 million by 2025— and deciding what is worth investing your own time and money into can be tricky.
It’s particularly difficult for women wading into the world of femtech for the purposes of their fertility journey. Trying to conceive can be one of the most physically and emotionally draining experiences a woman goes through, which can leave you vulnerable to companies trying to profit on your struggles.
But while some are out for profit, many companies are genuinely invested in their mission of helping women. Here are four things every woman should consider when trying a new product, including what you should be weary of and how some of these tools can actually be empowering.
1. Not All Tools Work For Everyone
One of the hottest tools in fertility femtech are cycle trackers. These are based on a calendar method and although some are valuable to women with regular cycles, many do not take irregularity into consideration. If you have a regular period every month and a cycle that lasts for about 28 days, many of these apps may work to help you track your ovulation, but in no way different than your normal paper calendar. But if your cycle is irregular, skips months, or you have been diagnosed with a condition like PCOS, the majority of these tools will not be a good fit.
Nearly a third of women experience irregular cycles, so thankfully there are some tools with more sophistication. Be sure to research whether or not any tools you try will be suited to your cycle and if you’re still at a loss for information – ask! A reputable company should have a responsive and informative support team backing the technology that should be able to answer your questions.
2. Many Devices ARE Clinically Backed
As with any healthcare sector, devices are subject to different regulatory requirements depending on how they are categorized. Even within fertility tech, each device varies greatly in its level of clinical support. Unfortunately, many femtech companies have not conducted formal clinical trials and aren’t regulated by the FDA.
That being said, this is shifting as the femtech market experiences increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies in recent years. For example, the European Union approved the first mobile app designed for contraception in 2017 and the FDA approved a colposcope that uses a smartphone for cervical cancer screenings in 2016. Within the fertility monitor market, OvuSense is the only fertility monitor with full regulatory clearance from the FDA (510k), European Union (CE), and other regulatory bodies in Canada and Australia. If limited on time and resources, consider trying products with higher regulatory standards first.
3. You Can Take This Data to Your Doctor
Everyday day we talk to women who are using this technology at home, but may be reluctant to discuss their findings with their doctors. Fortunately, more and more doctors are embracing new technology. The reason? Doctors need to be responsive to the needs and requirements of their patients and femtech apps and devices can serve as valuable sources of information to augment records and provide a more complete picture of your overall health.
If you’re interested in learning how certain tools can fit into your formal treatment plan, do your research. Many companies will readily provide clinical support information that users can share with their doctors.
4. There’s Power In Knowledge (And Numbers)
You know your body better than anyone, Women have every right to feel empowered to learn about their bodies and share that information with their care team, and the more that do, the more widely accepted these femtech tools will become.
Beyond the information femtech tools provide, many also come with an informal community of support. From posting pregnancy tests to analyzing temperature charts and ovulation strips, online infertility groups offer incredible levels of peer-to-peer compassion, understanding, and education. Research whether the apps or devices you’re considering trying have online user groups, to help support and answer any common questions you may have. Also a good femtech company will ensure that they provide high quality customer and clinical support, so that you can get help when you need it.
Femtech was once considered the ‘wild west’ of the fertility space but is now attracting nearly $400 million from investors. What’s clear is that femtech isn’t going anywhere, so whether you have enabled the new cycle tracking app on your Apple Watch, or are looking for a fertility monitor to help you conceive, remember to do your research, talk with your doctor, and connect with others who have experience with the femtech you’re considering.
Kate Davies is a Fertility Nurse Consultant, founder of Your Fertility Journey and the Fertility Nurse Advisor for the OvuSense Fertility Monitor. Kate is passionate about empowering women to understand their natural fertility and improve their fertility health to optimize their ability to conceive. When Kate isn’t consulting, you can find her indulging her other passion, recording podcasts with her co-host of The Fertility Podcast.