4min readHealth 15 October 2019
Photo Courtesy of Natalist
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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