Exploring Women’s Health Today

Sex, drugs, politics, and money. All so-called taboo table topics. But these themes can also serve as a framework to dissect the intricacies of women’s health today. Many aspects of women’s health have after all also been uncomfortable to talk about openly, thus this structure will guide the synthesis of varying goings-on and provide the lens through which to understand and interpret the news and advances.

From Taboo to Truth: Insights on Women’s Health Realities

McKinsey Health Institute mapped out the underpinnings of the landscape encompassing women’s health quite thoroughly:

  • Women spend more of their lives than men in poor health, often due to sex-specific conditions that impact their ability to work, particularly between the ages of 15 – 50.
  • Medical research has traditionally focused on diseases with high mortality, often overlooking those leading to disability, and has not always identified sex-differentiated results.
  • Gender bias in both research and healthcare disproportionately impacts outcomes for women, often leading to delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or undertreatment.
  • Funding for research into women-centric healthcare has been insufficient.
  • The gap in focus thus represents an annual $1 trillion economic opportunity.

Many have taken heed of this situation and through various initiatives aided in propelling the topic of women’s health into the mainstream, making it one of the hottest themes in wellness today.

Below we’ll explore some of the developments making headlines and stimulating conversation.

Group of female demonstrating outdoors

Policy Rehabs: Navigating the Politics of Women’s Health

It wasn’t until 1993 that by law, women were to be included in clinical research in the US. Today, the women’s health agenda is again receiving some much-needed attention (be it constructive or potentially otherwise).

The White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research: On March 18th President Biden signed an executive order to improve women’s health, requiring federal agencies to report their annual spending on women’s health research and consider ways AI can advance the studies. While partially a political move to inspire women to vote for him in the coming election, particularly those on the pro-choice side of Roe v. Wade’s overturning (as abortion rights could be the most decisive issue in the election), the order focuses on many of the barriers to health equity identified in McKinsey’s report and begins to tackle numerous predominantly working age women-only health concerns (e.g., perimenopause, menopause, endometriosis, etc.).

FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine: The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its ruling in June that will determine if mifepristone, the only drug approved specifically for terminating pregnancies, can remain on the market. At issue is not just the drug’s survival, but also more far-reaching implications for reproductive healthcare access, as a judgment against the FDA could invite ideological challenges to other approved medications, and in all likelihood, women’s health issues could be negatively impacted further.

Office Politics: Supporting Women’s Health in the Workplace

Maven Clinic, a digital health partner for many top companies, provides enhancements to benefits programs that support women’s health needs from fertility, adoption, surrogacy, and pregnancy, to postpartum, parenting, and menopause, enabling employers not only to attract and retain talent, but also boost productivity, while saving on healthcare costs. It’s important to note here, too, that Maven is a VC unicorn.

Glad future mom tuching her tummy and smiling

New Prescriptions: Research Advancing Women’s Health

Biotechs are rising to the occasion and elevating women’s health, as demonstrated in the examples summarized below.

Oviva Therapeutics, a PipeCo of Cambrian Bio (featured in our piece on healthy aging), is awaiting approval to start human clinical trials on its synthetic AMH (a hormone that regulates the depletion of eggs in women’s ovarian reserves), to increase egg quantity during IVF, thus increasing the likelihood of pregnancy. By utilizing AMH to preserve the ovarian reserve, Oviva believes they have the potential to eventually extend the function of the ovaries, delay the onset of menopause, and improve healthspan in women as they age. 

Daré Bioscience, a San Diego drugmaker focused exclusively on women’s health, has 12 therapeutics in its pipeline including an investigational cream formulation of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra®, for topical administration to treat FSAD/FSAID (a physiological condition characterized by the inability to attain or maintain sufficient genital arousal during sex). There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for FSAD or FSAID.

Lilypad Health is working to create a menstrual pad strip that can screen for gynecological diseases from home rather than having a pap smear. While still in the early stages of development (by college students!), accessibility is at its core (and most likely key to its fundraising), as the Lilypad could serve as a simple, affordable way for women to routinely check for diseases if they are uninsured, underinsured, don’t have access to a doctor, or just averse to the annual examination.


Money Matters: Investing in Women’s Health

Silicon Valley Bank’s inaugural report, Innovation in Women’s Health 2023, highlights the improving landscape of VC investment in women’s health, with a  314% increase in investments compared to a 28% rise in overall healthcare investments over the past five years. However, women’s health companies continue to be undervalued, with seed stage women’s health companies consistently valued 20% lower than health companies overall in 2023, which is attributed to inadequate data collection on women’s health conditions thus making it difficult to prove the market opportunity to investors of women’s health concerns.

The report also identifies a white space for investment, believing it primarily lies beyond fertility and pregnancy spaces, with menopause care emerging as one of the most promising. Despite the significant workforce impact—20% of women in the workforce today are menopausal—and the annual costs associated with lost productivity – $1.8 billion – due to menopause-related symptoms, nearly three-quarters (73%) of menopausal women do not seek help for their symptoms. This void in the marketplace became particularly pronounced when the link between hormone replacement therapy (HRT – the only supposed scientifically proven treatment available) and breast cancer was identified.

Per a recent Women of Wearables blog, 150 VCs are currently investing in women’s health and FemTech, signaling a growing interest and potential for innovation in this sector

Loving black couple relaxing in bed at home

From Menstruation to Menopause: FemTech is Stimulating Interest

FemTech encompasses a wide range of technology-enabled, consumer products and solutions designed to enhance the health and well-being of women. The following is just a sampling and represents some of the various aspects of women’s health being alleviated by these innovations.

Period Products

  • Therabody, most well-known for its massage guns, has a Period Pain Relief Program that combines its PowerDot 2.0 portable transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device along with a free guided program on its app to provide a quick and natural alternative to menstrual pain relief methods.

Pleasure Pals

  • Knude Society, a UK sexual wellness company, offers good vibrations made by and for women, including toys and a “pleasure hub” – an online sexual wellness resource center created in partnership with somatic sex therapist, Emily King.

Pelvic Power

  • Elvie, a trailblazer in FemTech, created the Elvie Trainer, a pelvic floor training device and app to assist in perfecting Kegel workouts, a proven technique to mitigate postpartum and menopausal incontinence.

‘Pause Partners

  • Embr Labs’ Ember Wave is wearable tech that can control how hot or cold you feel by stimulating the nerves in the temperature-sensitive skin of the inner wrist to aid with numerous menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, stress, and sleep.

Pretty female looking at her boyfriend in bed stock photo Overhead close up of young couple lying in bed together Romantic couple in love looking at each other Smiling young couple cuddling in bed

Influencing the Conversation: Non-tech, Sex-Specific Merch

Diet and nutrition play an important role in overall well-being, as do exercise, managing stress, and having social connections.  Many enterprises focus on one or more of these aspects of health and approach feminine concerns without hi-tech integrations.

Food Period makes functional food products that help women “have great periods” through seed syncing: eating certain seeds that contain certain micronutrients during certain phases in the menstrual cycle to “modulate sex hormones” and help alleviate period-related symptoms such as acne, cramps, and mood swings.

Lorals offers FDA-cleared latex lingerie (disposable panties) for oral sex that helps reduce the transmission of bodily fluids, harmful pathogens, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Lorals are considered qualified medical expenses, thus HSA and FSA plans reimburse for their purchase.  They’re dental dams, reinvented.

Dr. Kellyann Petrucci’s &ME women’s healthcare line markets a hormone replacement therapy alternative, Peri + Menopause, to aid with “the transition”. The supplement is formulated to naturally support weight management, ease hot flashes and sleep disturbances, as well as promote healthy digestion, calmness, relaxation, and a healthy mind.

Menopause retreats such as those offered by Canyon Ranch provide cognitive behavioral techniques like meditation, breathing, and lifestyle changes that can help with symptoms, thus the benefits are primarily psychological, as these vacations are not a cure for the physiological changes brought on by menopause.

Breaking Taboos and Empowering Change

The intersection of taboo topics—sex, drugs, politics, and money—provides a framework for understanding the complexities of women’s health today. Reading about some of the issues may seem uncomfortable at first. But that’s the point. By challenging taboos and prioritizing empowerment, the conversations being had on women’s health are not only prolific but also frank, sparking change, and making strides toward closing the gender gap in health.

Interested in driving innovation in women’s health? Let’s collaborate to advance your brand’s impact. Reach out to us at hello@migrationmarketing.com with the subject line: Blog Inquiry.


About the Author

Carol Maggio is a Senior Consulting Strategist at Migration Marketing.