‘Femtech’, fertility tracking and being ‘hormonal’ …what we’ve been reading this week at Brand Genetics

This week we’ve been reading about ‘Femtech’ and a few insights have caught our eye…

Half of the world have a monthly period and yet there has been very limited innovation for the menstrual cycle over the past few decades. In 2017, The Guardian ran an article declaring the ‘menstrual liberation’, exploring how periods have moved from a ‘taboo women’s issues’ to an important subject of The Great Awokening. Of course, there are many contributing factors to the increasing acceptability of the concept of menstruation, but it is fair to say fourth wave feminism (the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement) has played a profound role in getting women’s health on the agenda.

From period tracking apps to CBD-infused tampons, in the last few years, there have been a remarkable interest and subsequent investment in women’s health globally. In fact, findings as part of research conducted by Frost & Sullivan, estimates the FemTech industry could be worth as much as $50 billion in the next seven years. This week we explore how tech is shaking up the menstruation industry!

Why we need innovation. Period.

If you’re a woman reading this, it feels unnecessary to explain to you the difficulty of a having a monthly period. If you are a man reading this, it is likely you have a significant woman in your life for whom you can empathise the perils of the monthly cycle. However, while it is thought that 90% of women experience some premenstrual changes in their bodies, with more than 150 clinical identified symptoms of PMS, including irritability, anxiety, depression and headaches, there has been very little in the way of innovation seeking to tackle these period-related problems.

FemTech to the rescue!

We have, nevertheless, in recent years seen the rise of the tracking app. Echoing the mechanics of fitness or food tracking, FemTech apps like Natural Cycles, Moody Month and Flo all endeavour to help women with their monthly cycle by monitoring their ebbs and flows (pun intended).

Natural Cycles is a fertility tracking apps which claims to be ‘hormone free contraception’. The app works by measuring your temperature (something you will have to do each morning with the thermometer provided), and from this gets to know your cyclic rhythms, telling you if you need to use protection to prevent pregnancy or not. The app has unfortunately been under fire for misinformation, with some of its users unintentionally falling pregnant while relying on the apps misaligned temperature readings. Needless to say, innovation in a new area does not come without its problems.

However, there are several other Femtech apps following in Natural Cycles’ footsteps seeking to provide alternatives to traditional forms of conception. While Natural Cycles is currently the only platform with official contraception certification, there are a whole host of apps optimistic they can offer women (and men) alternatives whilst alleviating some the negative side effects of the most commonly used form of contraception: the pill. Clue, Flo and Glow are amongst some of the more heavily invested fertility trackers.

‘Feminine Hygiene’ (there is no better phrase?) Start-ups

There are also a number of startups seeking to address some of the challenges one confronts when menstruating. As illuminated with the statistic above, periods can be painful. In fact, it is thought that around 80% of women will suffer from period pain in their lifetime, with the severity of the discomfort increased if you are suffering with common conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovaries. Daye, is a London-based startup offering the first ‘soothing tampon’ with its CBD-infused monthly subscription service. It might sound crazy, but medical research shows that the vaginal canal actually has the highest concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the body, making it the best place to absorb the compound. With a CBD concentration of 30%, Daye tampons promise to ease period pains by relaxing the body.

Likewise, Lola, an 100% organic tampon and sanitary towel brand is seeking to address anxiety around what goes into the body, and Thinx , is a revolutionary period underwear that seeks to get rid of single-use sanitary products all together.

The Human Experience (HX) Learning?

It’s basic, but so often overlooked: put people at the heart of the innovation process. Menstruation has been a largely unexplored subject in innovation, no doubt for its taboo nature. But as we’ve seen in the above statistics and start up examples, there are real business opportunities in a largely untapped space. There are still a few key questions to consider if you are looking to undertake disruptive innovation in the world of Femtech:

It is important to remember that innovation doesn’t need to be fancy. A piece of AI powered software might not be the right solution — it might be just as simple as removing chemicals from your products or infusing them with a natural pain reliever. Think human first. Think positive innovation second.

Clemmie Prendergast is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in anthropology, she has a wealth of experience in behavioural science and psychology and has worked in strategy, insight and behaviour change.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics www.brandgenetics.com

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