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Awkward Health Issues, the Symptoms We Don't Discuss & the Market Opportunity

The wellness market is boominggrowing at twice the rate of the US economy, in fact. So we’re all healthy, right? Yet some patients, often women, find their symptoms pushed to the side or hushed. That is stigma in action, and those awkward health issues are where brave startups are finding opportunity.

Enough beating around the bush: we’re talking about incontinence, feminine hygiene, and other “taboo” matters, and the products they’re inspiring. (If you’re wondering: yes, it is awkward to write about these things at work, for work, but that’s the point, isn’t it? In any case, please send your good thoughts to my proofreaders).

Before we get too far: while the medical gender gap is real, the innovations around stigmatized health issues span all genders. This post is part of our collection of Food and Wellness Trends in honor of Women’s History Month, but men’s health also has its own shadowy corners. Hims (which has now also launched “Hers”) is an example of one startup willing to cut red tape, by helping men with their less conversational medical needs: hair loss, erectile dysfunction, acne, cold sores, and aging.

Psst… It’s a Girl Thing.

Hiding a tampon up your sleeve at work is commonplace, but also a good way to set the stage: Even the basics of women’s health are taboo topics. “Normal” feminine hygiene products are marketed through commercials of dancing women, which always avoid the topic of ingredients (many of them are laden with harsh chemicals) and waste (talk about packaging on packaging on packaging). So, women-lead brands have decided that enough is enough (Finally!). Queen V is a cheeky, millennial-focused brand with an emphasis on health; Blume focuses on pre-teens, offering customizable boxes that are safe and sustainable; Cora, available at Target, aims to remove stigma through their organic, travel-sized tampons by supporting girls in need around the world. And this story just won an Oscar.

Infertility Sucks

For many women, fertility care is a major cause of medical bills. A CDC survey found that 29% of women with fertility issues have sought medical care, though this care often comes with a heavy price tag. The market is expected to reach $21 billion by 2020. The spending wave is followed by a ripple of tech-y startups, from more affordable home testing kits to devices (and apps) to help women that are hoping to start their families.

Women seeking solace and a bit of laughter may enjoy these uber specific IVF cards on Etsy.

It’s Been Leaked

Puns aside, bladder leakage affects 30-40% of older women. That’s 25 million people in the US and 400 million worldwide. Pregnancy and childbirth impact the pelvic floor, making incontinence among women twice as common as it is among men. A doctor will likely say to do more Kegel Exercises, but they do not help everyone. This is part of why, in 2018, Willow launched their everyday-solution: an adult diaper that looks just like regular underwear. Nex Wear offers a similar solution.

Hot & Flashy

Let me introduce you to Madame Ovary. She’s good friends with Gwyneth. Yes, she’s (it’s) a little envelope of pills curated just for women. Meant to support the female body as it ages, Goop is hoping to transform what it means to turn 40 among women today and with it, they’re also opening a can of worms that few brands have cared much to open before: Menopause.

Don’t Want to Talk About It?

No problem.

Telemedicine makes getting what you need (prescriptions, medical advice, etc.) more private than ever. Genneve is a telehealth service tailored specifically to women’s needs: “Your online clinic for a better menopause.” Their service is coupled with a line of personal care products, too.

The times they are a changin’. Of late, we’ve seen many stigmatized, or otherwise awkward health issues gain mainstream media attention, including hemp and sexual wellness. But that’s just the beginning. In the near future, we expect to see more break-out companies venturing where others haven’t dared. You know what they say: “Bigger the risk, bigger the reward. But the higher the climb the harder the fall.”

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For media inquiries please email fwt@room214.com

Caitlin Sherwood



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