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While 50% of infertility problems are caused by the male, there's a lack of resources and care
While many likely think of fertility as being part of the femtech space, and as a women's issue, that's not reality: one in eight couples have trouble getting pregnant, and roughly half the time it's the male factor that's causing the problem. Yet, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated.
"The current process places the burden of care on the female and in many cases causes unnecessary delays in conception," said Barrett Cowan, co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at Posterity Health, a startup focused on male fertility, which announced a $6 million seed round of funding on Wednesday.
There are a few reasons for that, he explained, one being that there are only 200 reproductive urologists in the country, as compared to 40,000 OBGYNs; that means that it's harder for men to obtain care in a timely manner. In addition, many male fertility services are not covered by insurance or reimbursed.
On top of that, while there are a plethora of resources for women, including online content, tracking apps, and ovulation kits, there is no comparable support system for men.
"Males lack access to educational material and are typically left out of the process. There is still a stigma tied to male fertility care, and few couples understand that many male conditions can be treated and improved," Cowan said.
"Our mission is to provide access to male fertility care for every couple trying to conceive. We believe that providing couples with a full assessment of both partners will allow them to find the best path to pregnancy."
Services offered by Posterity include cryopreservation, male fertility workups, recurrent pregnancy loss consults, vasectomy reversals, and gender affirming consults, as well as its Baseline Fertility Assessment which is used determine their fertility status, and also includes supportive resources, digital education, and a detailed consultation with a male fertility specialist.
Posterity's typical customer is between 25 and 50, and is either contemplating having a child or actively working to conceive, though the company also sees many patients who have recently received an abnormal semen result and require a fertility work-up.
The company also supports couples who are experiencing recurring miscarriages or failed IVF, as sperm quality may play a role in these outcomes; 10% of patients with an abnormal semen analysis have an underlying health condition, so the company focuses on identifying and uncovering other health issues. It also works with couples where the male has a low sperm count; in many of these situations, it will use medications to rebalance hormonal issues and improve sperm quality, typically resulting in a significant improvement in sperm quality and count.
"In many situations, we see the male very late in the process, when couples are tired and desperate to conceive. Clinical best practices clearly recommend the simultaneous evaluation of both partners immediately, when the couple feels like there is an issue conceiving. Unfortunately, this rarely occurs," Cowen said.
While the cost of the initial Baseline Assessment is $199, the rest of Posterity Health service pricing varies based on the care required, Cowen explained, and its services are now covered by major fertility benefit companies, like Maven, Carrot, and Progyny.
"Our goal is to make this as comfortable of a process for the male partner as possible. Using our technology platform, telehealth, and at-home testing we’ve found that 90% of our care can be delivered from the comfort of the patient’s home, with the female partner included in the process."
In addition to the couples that the company treats, it also partners with Fertility Centers, OBGYNs and Fertility Benefit Managers to make sure couples have access to Posterity Health's services. The company currently provides care in 26 states.
The new round of funding was led by Distributed Ventures, along with Gerry McCarthy, CEO of Merative; Laurie McGraw, former SVP of Health Solutions at the AMA; and Don Holzworth, serial entrepreneur and Chairman of the Advisory Board at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health.
The company plans to use the money to expand its team of reproductive urologists, accelerate the delivery of its digital health platform, and expand the size and reach of its sales team.
"We want to be at the leading edge providing new treatments and predictive analytics to help couples find the best path to pregnancy. We are working diligently to make sure all males have a seat at the table, and access to expert male fertility care," said Cowen.
"We are committed to providing leading edge care and working on exciting new innovations in male fertility. We will be working on the first clinical drug trial focused on improving male fertility and we are working with a new epigenetic sperm test to predict the success of IUI."
(Image source: posterityhealth.com)
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