Allison Brickell

Envisioning a Better System for Women’s Health

As the senior editor at both KingsCrowd and Early Investing, I do a lot of reading, editing and research on startups. 

At KingsCrowd, I edit dozens of analyst reports on a regular basis. These reports provide detailed analysis of different startups, including the company’s market opportunity, financial performance, risk factors and more. The reports also explain the overall rating the company received from the KingsCrowd investment team — top deal, deal to watch, neutral or underweight. 

Most of the time, I’m reading these reports as the average person might. I’m not an expert on every market sector. But I’m familiar with the startup space. And sometimes I have personal experience with the problems that startups are addressing.

One of those problems — and it’s a big one — is the state of women’s healthcare.

To put it bluntly, the U.S. healthcare system is failing women.

Our medical system treats male bodies as the default. So our understanding of diseases, physiological responses and even physical symptoms tends to be based on male physiology. 70% of chronic pain sufferers are women. Yet 80% of pain studies are conducted on male mice or human men. 

This gender bias means healthcare professionals tend to assume that men and women have the same needs and require the same treatment. Which is quite literally a life-threatening mistake.

A 2000 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the middle of having a heart attack. Why? Because women’s heart attack symptoms are different from men’s symptoms — so doctors dismiss them when they don’t show the expected symptoms.

When women report pain, they also tend to be taken less seriously than men. Per the Harvard Health Blog:

Women in pain are much more likely than men to receive prescriptions for sedatives, rather than pain medication, for their ailments. One study even showed women who received coronary bypass surgery were only half as likely to be prescribed painkillers, as compared to men who had undergone the same procedure. [Women] wait an average of 65 minutes before receiving an analgesic for acute abdominal pain in the ER in the United States, while men wait only 49 minutes.

And when it comes to female-centric conditions like endometriosis — which can involve severe pelvic pain, painful periods and even infertility — it gets even worse.

I think this Forbes headline sums it up nicely: “You Could Fly To The Moon 456 Times Before Getting An Endometriosis Diagnosis, Study Finds.”

A Painful Experience

I have some personal experience with this massive chasm in our healthcare system.

I used to suffer from pelvic pain. For about 10 years, my pelvic floor muscles were too tight, and I had no way of relaxing them. I did everything I could think of to ease the pain — to experience life the way people without pelvic pain did. But the pain persisted. 

The really sad part is that for a long time, I thought I had to just grit my teeth and bear it.

The few times I asked healthcare professionals about my pain, I never got any definitive answers. No one could tell me exactly what was wrong with any certainty. The answers I did get didn’t offer any easy solutions. My most memorable experience from that time was seeing a female nurse practitioner who told me the pain was all in my head and that I “just needed to relax.”

The gaslighting was astounding.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t stop at that nurse practitioner. I found a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic pain. And for the first time, I was heard. My pain was not doubted or dismissed. And we found a solution that worked for me. It was a profound experience. 

A Better Way

My experience with pelvic pain has given me a deep appreciation for considerate and sensitive doctors who specialize in women’s health — healthcare professionals who do not accept that women must live with treatable pain.  

That’s why I was very interested to read KingsCrowd’s analyst report on SoLá Therapy. The company provides a rapid light therapy treatment for pelvic pain.

I’m not here to say whether SoLá is a good investment opportunity. (KingsCrowd gave it a neutral rating, if you’re curious.) But I am excited to see a startup that’s addressing this problem. And I’d be happy to see even more startups doing the same. 

After all, about one in four women in the U.S. suffer from pelvic floor disorders. It’s a huge problem.

It may not seem like a sexy investment at first glance. Most people may not know just how debilitating pelvic pain can be. Investors might want to dismiss it as not a large enough market or not a big enough problem.

But women’s pain is a very real problem. And there are a host of conditions women struggle with — not just pelvic pain — that badly need addressing. 

Startups have the opportunity to help women where traditional medicine has failed them. 

And that is worth investing in.