Photo Courtesy of Natalist
4 Min ReadHealth 15 October 2019
It seems that most people are more interested in how not to get pregnant these days, but where can you turn to when you actually want the opposite? That is where Natalist steps in. After experiencing the struggles of IVF first-hand, Natalist founder and CEO, Halle Tecco, (former founder of venture capital fund Rock Health) was inspired to start a company that connects women with basic fertility support and education.
The startup's flagship product, The Get Pregnant Bundle, is a reproductive health kit that is delivered directly and discreetly right to your front door with products and resources including prenatal vitamins, ovulation tests, pregnancy tests and a complete conception guide, Conception 101. It retails for $90 as a one-time buy or $81 if purchased as part of a subscription. This bundle is the culmination of all of Tecco and Natalist's work thus far and is the key to helping this one-of-a-kind startup achieve its mission of helping women get pregnant by supplying them with doctor-approved essentials and resources.
Tecco got in depth with Swaay about her new company, her journey and what she hopes to achieve through Natalist.
What is your educational background? What got you started in the healthcare field?
In college I majored in finance while volunteering at the Cleveland Clinic and interning at the Columbia University Medical Center. The intersection of business and healthcare is in my DNA. Neither of my parents graduated from college, but my mom worked in the healthcare field and my dad was a small-business entrepreneur. I ultimately went to business school to merge these interests, where I had the opportunity to work for Apple covering the healthcare segment of the app store. That experience inspired me to start Rock Health—the first venture capital fund dedicated to digital health. From there, I went on to teach the first MBA-level course on investing in digital health at Columbia Business School, start my MPH at Johns Hopkins… and most recently started Natalist!
You mentioned you started this company after going through the IVF process. Tell us more about that experience. What did you find the most frustrating in your fertility journey?
My own personal fertility journey opened my eyes to the huge opportunity to rebuild the experience. I was probably most frustrated by the sheer amount of junk science being peddled to women. Creating a new human is one of the most exciting, yet vulnerable, times in your life. I look back at the products and services I fell for and just cringe at all the wasted time and money. I wanted to build something that helps women cut through the crap and makes their experience a little more beautiful.
What do you hope Natalist and your team would accomplish in the first year?
We want to help make babies, lots of them!
How does Natalist manage the gender dynamic of fertility issues?
We do have two men on our team, and one of them is a dad. We've learned that men are motivated to be part of this journey as well. They also deal with fertility complications (about half of infertility is male-related). Also of course both men and women grieve when a miscarriage occurs. We recently brought on a content contributor who is a urologist to help us build out content specifically around male fertility.
You mentioned one of the goals is to educate women on conception because a large number of women don't have the correct information. What do you believe is the most significant shortfall of the current health education system for women?
There is a lot of federal funding for sex education (and unfortunately also abstinence-only education, which we know doesn't work). But most of us do not get educated on how to get pregnant when we want to, so we turn to the internet. There's an insane amount of misinformation out there, and our OBGYNs don't have a ton of extra time to debunk ever myth we read during our annual visits.
What has been the response of the traditional medical community when it comes to your company's product? Has there been any push-back from licensed practitioners?
If I've learned anything in this industry, it's that the best way to improve healthcare is to work with the experts. For example, we don't plan on entering the D2C fertility drug space because we think these decisions should be made in concert with your OBGYN and not by a faceless, remote doctor who is paid per prescription.
We follow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines and refer to them often in our content and in our first book, Conception 101. We also used ACOG and Academic Pediatric Association (APA) guidelines to develop our prenatal Duo, which includes a Prenatal Multi and Omega DHA.
I hope that by taking these steps to protect patients and not bypass the patient-provider relationship, we can build trust with the broader OBGYN community.
Why do you think there is such a stigma around infertility?
Because we don't talk about it! Once I started opening up about my struggles, I learned that so many of my friends had gone through similar experiences. One of my good girlfriends even did IVF not once, but twice. And I had no clue!
You have been pretty open about your IVF journey. Do you believe there is power in sharing your story?
I hope so. It's a balance for me. There were other women who really helped me in my journey by sharing theirs. I want to share enough that I can hopefully help carry others through their journeys. But I also want to respect the privacy of my family. In a lot of ways, my IVF journey belongs to my children and not me.
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With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.