The Growing Demand for Innovation in the Women’s Health Market
The women’s health market is seeing unprecedented interest in recent years. The demand for solutions related to reproductive health conditions and overall health and wellness leaves the market open for new, less invasive, higher impact technologies.
Historically, women’s health has been neglected in the United States. As reported in Insider, “Women make up 51% of the population, 80% of the healthcare workforce, and make around 80% of household healthcare decisions. But life science research and standard medical practice remains based on men.” The article then goes on to say that “Only in 1993 did the National Institute of Health pass the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act that required that women be included in NIH-funded research. Still, nearly 30 years later, just 4% of all healthcare research and development goes towards women’s health issues specifically.”
In addition to the many health conditions and issues that exclusively affect women, the general health and wellbeing of women is also of concern. From the CDC:
- Percent of women aged 18 and over in fair or poor health: 15.6%
- Percent of women aged 20 and over who are obese: 41.8% (2015-2018)
- Percent of women aged 20 and over with hypertension (measured high blood pressure and/or taking antihypertensive medication): 45.2% (2015-2018)
But in recent years, there has been a shift toward investment in this secor. Currently, the women’s health market is valued at $19 billion and is expected to hit $41 billion by 2027  – $23.3 billion of which represents therapeutics. This includes a small, but noteworthy $1 billion in 2018 dedicated to women’s health apps. The market is expected to continue to grow quickly, with estimates up to $3.9 billion in 2026. And the growth has translated into investor interest, with stakeholders from all sides eager for new innovations that will improve patients’ lives and drive ROI.
Here we explore key sectors of the women’s health market and areas where medical device entrepreneurs will likely find ample spaces in which to succeed.
Disorders Related to Infertility
Infertility can affect women of any age and can be a heartbreaking situation for women and their families. Conditions that lead to infertility include polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and primary ovarian insufficiency. And with immense patient demand for treatments, venture capital and private equity funding of fertility firms grew by over 3X from 2009 to 2018, totaling $624 million. 
According to Jaunt research, it is estimated that endometriosis affects 6.5 million women in the U.S. alone, or 6-10% of women in their reproductive years. In additional to physical pain and limitations, a recent study found that, “endometriosis may exert a profound negative influence on the lives of individuals with the disorder, adversely affecting quality of life, participation in daily and social activities, physical and sexual functioning, relationships, educational and work productivity, mental health, and well-being.”
Endometriosis is definitively diagnosed with a histologic evaluation of biopsied tissue during laparoscopic surgery. According to the Endometriosis in America survey, 71% of respondents have undergone one of these surgeries for endometriosis. Currently there are approximately 390,000 laparoscopic diagnostic procedures and 130,000 hysterectomies each year. However, disadvantages to surgery include potential injury, particularly to the bladder and bowel, adhesion formation, and more.
In addition to the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis itself, endometriosis-related pelvic pain therapies are another area in which companies can improve patient outcomes, as current treatments are limited for the most part to analgesics, hormone therapy, and surgical intervention. Less-invasive options for diagnosis and treatment would no doubt be of tremendous benefit to patients.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome happens when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal. It is possible for cysts to develop on the ovaries. Women who are obese are more likely to have PCOS. Unfortunately, at this time there is no definitive test that doctors can perform to diagnose PCOS. Doctors often perform a pelvic exam, conduct blood tests and/or an ultrasound to help them diagnose the disorder.
Currently available treatments for PCOS are largely pharmaceutical, in addition to lifestyle changes. Recently, Bayer and Evotec announced a five year partnership, seeking to find and develop potential new options to treat women with PCOS.
Gynecological Health and Pregnancy
Gynecological health and pregnancy includes menstruation and menstrual irregularities; urinary tract health; and disorders like bacterial vaginosis, vaginitis, uterine fibroids, and vulvodynia. It also encompasses pre-pregnancy and prenatal care; pregnancy loss, premature birth, and more.
Below we highlight a few areas of opportunity in this category.
According to the World Health Organization, 222 million women aren’t getting the contraception services they need. And while there are many health issues related to lack of contraception that require vastly different treatments and innovation, many experts and innovators are looking to use technology as a simpler way prevent or plan pregnancy, rather than relying on pharmaceuticals.
Which is where technology like Natural Cycles comes in. The first FDA-approved birth control app, the technology pairs the charting of daily body temperature with an algorithm that learns the patterns of the user’s menstrual cycle. After the daily body temperature is entered, the user receives a fertility status of either green (not fertile) or a red (fertile). To date, the company has raised a total of $37.5M in funding over 3 rounds. Other digital solutions could also augment or compete in this space.
Uterine fibroids are the most common non-cancerous tumors among women of reproductive age. They are made of tissue and muscle cells, growing in and around the uterine walls. These are treated by medication to shrink the fibroid or, in some cases, surgery is required.
Because fibroids can be treated pharmaceutically or via a medical device, there is opportunity for both sectors to offer technologies that help patients. One recent development is a new minimally invasive approach called Acessa, which uses radiofrequency technology to treat the condition. However, there is no doubt room in the market for other new innovations.
Companies that can develop new ways to diagnose and treat women’s health conditions will bring needed innovation to this large and historically underserved market. And with investor money continuing to flow into women’s health, if you have the will, you just might find a way.
Would you like to learn more about the women’s health market? Contact us for a consultation.
 Women’s health market to touch USD 41.05 billion at 3.2% CAGR by 2027; growing focus on Women’s health worldwide to positively impact the market…. (2020, Dec 21). NASDAQ OMX’s News Release Distribution Channel Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/wire-feeds/women-s-health-market-touch-usd-41-05-billion-at/docview/2471357061/se-2?accountid=4485
 “Women’s Health App Market to Witness Significant Growth Due to Rising Health Awareness & Enhanced Usage of Mobile Phones Till 2026 | Million Insights.” Women’s Health Weekly, 30 Apr. 2020, p. 802. Gale OneFile: Contemporary Women’s Issues, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A621986838/CWI?u=asuniv&sid=CWI&xid=7baa1477. Accessed 24 May 2021.
 The Economist. Seed capital: the fertility business is booming. Available at: https://www.economist.com/business/2019/08/08/the-fertility-business-is-booming. Retrieved August 19, 2020.