Where investment in women’s health will be focused in 2023

Though women make up just over half the US population, investments into their health are often underfunded.
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· 4 min read

Women’s health is finally getting its due.

Investors now recognize that the historically underfunded sector is worth putting their money into—and it’s coming at a time when those dollars can have a major impact.

Women make up just over half the US population, but they control about 80% of the national healthcare spend. Yet, a 2021 analysis from the NIH concluded that the organization disproportionately funds studies on diseases that primarily affect men—meaning women’s health researchers must depend on outside investors to fill in the gaps.

In the US, women’s health startups have attracted $916 million for the first 11 months of 2022, according to investment data that Tracxn, a research firm, compiled for Healthcare Brew.

Although that funding number dipped slightly from the $1.2 billion raised in 2021—a record-breaking year for women’s health investments—it’s a notable increase from the $501 million raised in 2020.

Tracxn didn’t have projected figures for 2023, but co-founder and CEO Neha Singh said that after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, investors started paying more attention to women’s health—though that’s not immediately translating into more funding.

“Startups specifically focused on women’s health may witness increased investor interest in the future, which was previously neglected by [venture capitalists],” Singh said.

The overturning of Roe “has created a new heightened moral and economic imperative to invest in the category,” added Carolyn Witte, co-founder and CEO of Tia, a women’s health provider that runs a virtual care clinic and multiple in-person clinics across the US.

Even so, Singh said it appears many investors are in a wait-and-see mode following the Dobbs decision, in which the Supreme Court eliminated the federal constitutional right to an abortion.

Of the $916 million invested in women’s health through Nov. 29 of this year, startups received $664 million before the June 2022 Dobbs ruling and just $252 million after, Singh said.

Where’s the money going in 2023?

Women are living longer across the world. In 2019, a 60-year-old woman could expect to live, on average, 21 more years, according to the World Health Organization. As most women experience menopause between ages 45 and 55, that means 1.2 billion women are expected to be experiencing or have experienced menopause by 2030.

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Singh anticipates that investment in women’s health will move beyond fertility and reproductive services—typically the focus of these startups—and into areas like senior care and menopause care to address those growing needs.

Adriana Krasniansky, head of research at venture fund Rock Health, said “we think that digital health is really well-positioned to offer solutions in the sexual wellness, education space, access to birth control, access to medical abortion care, where that’s legal, and of integrating that across the female healthcare journey, and even across the pregnancy and possibly postpartum experience. So for us, that's something that we’re really going to be watching into 2023.”

At the same time, sexual and reproductive care for women “is an area that we deem really important for investment,” said Krasniansky. “We’re really energized by the growth of companies […] in that space through this year so far.”

But companies will still have to compete in a challenging and politically fraught marketplace.

After the Dobbs decision, Singh said only two startups that provide medication to end pregnancies were able to raise funding: Hey Jane and Choix.

She said this is because potential investors fear “being entangled in politics” and are waiting for more clarity on regulations before they make any investment decisions.

Still, the barriers to women’s healthcare have bolstered business for telehealth startups that provide abortion and reproductive health-related services. Among them, Choix saw a 600% increase in web traffic on the day Roe was overturned, CEO Cindy Adam told Axios.

Reproductive medicine companies that provide specialized care—like fertility treatments—are also attracting significant investments. In a tough economy, there’s intense pressure to show investors that a company will be profitable, said Kindbody’s founder and chair Gina Bartasi.

“Only those companies who can get profitable and still scale are the ones that are going to continue to receive very attractive capital investment,” Bartasi said.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.