myLotus takes the stress (and cost) out of effective fertility monitoring – helping to democratise the fertility journey for all women.
Women are having fewer children now than ever before. A recent study found that in 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime, and by 2017, the fertility rate had almost halved to 2.4 children per woman. In many respects, this is no bad thing, being symptomatic of fewer deaths in childbirth, better access to contraception, and more women being in education and work.
Fertility options: limited at best
Yet, these bettering social and cultural environments for women also mean that they are having children later. With fertility rates decreasing sharply between 30 and 35 years old, this has been another reason for the current drop-off in childbirth, and it is a worrying development. It can often feel as if a woman’s fertility is out of her hands, and if she is having trouble conceiving, her options become limited.
Cost is a major factor: in the UK, one cycle of IVF treatment can cost up to £5,000 (~€5,840), and it all depends on your location and the scope of the treatment: in London prices can rise far above this depending on the use of donor eggs to frozen embryos. And even then, success rates range from 29% if the woman is under 35 to only 2% if over 44. And with many different fertility treatments now available, from IUI to IVF and even donors, if you can afford treatment it can be difficult to wrap your head around what’s best for you.
The mental toll of fertility problems is also significant, with a recent academic study finding that almost half of the respondents who used assisted conception sought out counselling as a result.
The FemTech revolution
All is not lost though. Technology is now finding new ways to democratise fertility for all women – reducing cost, increasing access and allowing women control over their fertility monitoring and journeys, at whatever stage along they are. Traditionally, medicine has used large-scale clinical studies to find ‘average’ healthcare solutions to treat illness, and whilst these are usually effective, they can sometimes mean doctors trying several options to ‘see what works’ as they lack the precision that a more bespoke approach could provide.
Rather than this trial-and-error methodology, this is where personalised healthcare products and services come in. This is the FemTech revolution: a spate of new start-ups and digital health applications that are changing the ways we deal with women’s health.
While historically women’s health accounted for only 4% of the overall funding for research and development for healthcare products and services in the US, from 2015-2018 $1bn (~€1.17bn) has been invested in the field, making it one of the fastest growing areas in global healthcare. By 2025, it is expected to grow into a $50bn industry. And its impact is wide-ranging. In terms of access, apps developed by CareNX Innovations provide smartphone-based diagnostics to help women in rural areas of India to receive timely medical intervention, while digital healthcare chains such as Maven Clinic and Celes Care make care available virtually to women in the comfort of their homes.
Making fertility monitoring manageable
Taking on fertility, new family planning and fertility monitoring devices and ovulation-cycle tracking apps have made fertility management affordable and reduced the side effects associated with conventional products such as the pill and intrauterine devices or cycles of infertility treatments. Most of these apps have a free basic version and premium options available for an annual subscription fee in the range of a few hundred dollars – far cheaper than traditional infertility treatments.
In the UK, for instance, myLotus is a groundbreaking new fertility monitoring and pregnancy testing device with a free downloadable app for pinpointing women’s ovulation cycles and allowing women for the first time to identify their own personal ovulation hormone (LH) profile ‘signature’ from a simple urine sample in the comfort of their home. Women can track their LH levels, even if their hormone baseline is well above or below the ‘normal’ cut-off levels offered by traditional ovulation tests. These new tests are as accurate as lab-based testing, requiring no more interpretation of blurred lines or symbols.
myLotus allows women to identify their fertility window and when it is the best time to naturally conceive.
Ultimately, what better way to improve our health than through using our mobile phones, especially since most of us carry one with us all the time. Smartphones have vast computing power which can relay real-time data to doctors or databases. Since mobile apps can already tell us when to sleep or exercise, remind us to take medicine, plot our weight or count our calories, products like myLotus are pioneering sophisticated, personalised solutions to our healthcare. The company expects to release further hormone health and wellbeing tests to complement its fertility offering later this year.
New technologies, new opportunities
With over-worked health providers, this new technology has huge potential to reduce health system costs and improve patient outcomes. One application being developed could – according to some estimates – replace as many as 17 million prescriptions for depression treatments in the UK alone – creating a saving of £85m per year.
The accuracy and equality of products like myLotus enables a new sense of control for women, allowing a better understanding of their fertility. Even for those women not immediately planning a child, gaining a clearer picture of their fertility health means they can make empowered choices about it, from the large-scale options of freezing their eggs to small-scale changes to diet and lifestyle.
In this way and through this new technology, fertility need not be a pressurised choice for women – it can increasingly become their right and their decision. And on a wider scale, these new opportunities for personalised healthcare could have a profound effect – for individuals, the pharma business and health providers.
Please note, this article will appear in issue 9 of Health Europa Quarterly, which will be available to read in April 2019.