Sharing insights from thousands of fertility health journeys
4th June 2020
The past year for Adia has been super interesting as we have supported thousands of women with their fertility health journey! Now it’s propelling us forward on our new brand and product. As we promised in our post here – “We’re rebranding Adia – here’s why” – we’re sharing some of what we’ve been learning. This is my first post on that with more to come.
First, a bit of context. We’ve been in a unique position as one of the only digital health companies (at least that I know of) that engages women with their fertility health data in the following areas:
- Period health
- Mental health
- Fertility hormones
- Nutrition and lifestyle
- Pregnancy history
So here are some key learnings and insights we’d had about the current state of fertility health and what needs to change:
Access and trust are fundamental
Another major learning is that access to trusted care makes a fundamental difference in how people think about and engage with care and their mental health. Through our work with the Wellcome Trust and UCL researchers we were able to track and analyse how mental health and engagement changed when people had easy online access to trusted experts. By trusted experts we mean qualified professionals who have commensurate certifications and expertise in the relevant area of care. Therefore this is very different from visiting a website or reading blogs on WebMD. We found strong correlations between such access to trusted expertise and improvement in reported wellbeing indicators.
It’s a conversation
We often think of access to health care as one off check-ups or consultations and prescriptions. That’s fine for some circumstances like when you have the flu or an injury. As we’ve engaged women and enabled them to speak directly with women’s health experts what we’ve seen looks more like a conversation. What’s really going on is a process of learning, discovery about their body, and problem solving with experts we have brought together.
Knowledge transforms conversations
We often see users come to us with questions. When they sign-up they immediately get a free health profile that helps them assess and understand their body and what’s going on. We then provide access to a wealth of content that helps them understand that better. Thus when they’re talking to health experts, whether on our platform or with their own doctor, they are much more informed. This of course helps them but it also helps the expert be more efficient and get to the root of what’s going on. This then accelerates the learning process and improves the quality of the conversation. We’ve realised that, sadly, this type of conversation is a rare luxury in our modern health care system.
Mental health plays a critical role
We’ve always thought mental health is important but the past year has heightened our awareness and understanding of what a pervasive role it plays in fertility health. Full 80% of women we engaged with who had been trying to conceive for 6 months or more we not optimistic about their future.
The way we framed this question is critical here because reporting that you are not optimistic about the future is highly correlated with depression. Sadly, as studies have shown, depression when trying to conceive and during pregnancy can lead to poor health outcomes such as low newborn birth weight and even lower IQ as I shared here. Unfortunately mental health support is not integrated into standard protocols for fertility care and many women reported feeling a lack of support.
The gender research gap
As we dug into more depth on specific women’s health topics that relate to fertility we found more questions than answers. We found that many of these questions – many of which are related to conditions women suffer through such as miscarriage and PCOS – have remained unanswered for a long time without a huge shift in research investment. Furthermore a lot of the data, and the way we collect data, on these issues is sorely lacking. So when we learned that 40% of miscarriages are unexplained we initially thought “well that’s a mystery”. Now we just question if the “mystery” is why we just haven’t invested more research into understanding miscarriage given 1 in 4 pregnancies result in a miscarriage.
As the Guardian reported earlier this year – “Not only have doctors, scientists and researchers mostly been men, but most of the cells, animals and humans studied in medical science have also been male: most of the advances we have seen in medicine have come from the study of male biology. Dr Janine Austin Clayton, an associate director for women’s health research at the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), told the New York Times that the result is: “We literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology.”
This learning has been awesome. And even better has been seeing the impact we’ve been able to have over the past year with so many women. We’re now excited to be putting that learning to work to iterate and improve our product to build upon that. So stay tuned for the new developments coming soon! And as always you can join our discussion on these same topics above on social at Facebook and Instagram.