Fortune Magazine Senior Editor Beth Kowitt dove deep this week into the infertility industry, detailing how one in eight couples struggle to conceive, creating an industry with ample investors and ultimately a mass market product.
She witnessed firsthand the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual conference where 8,000 reproductive pros (docs, nurses, bloggers) gathered in Philadelphia for infertility seminars, speeches and resource sharing. Kowitt notes how one of the keynote presentations wasn’t about the hottest scientific development but on “IVF as a Business.” Led by former fertility practitioner David Sable, who launched an IVF-only investment fund in 2018, Kowitt reports on “his vision for how the industry must embrace entrepreneurship to help in vitro fertilization reach its full potential.”
The article also includes more familiar statistics — millennials are the largest demographic getting pregnant right now and needing fertility treatments, women are having their first child later, more LBGTQ+ parents are having children through IVF, average costs are insanely expensive and largely out of pocket, IVF is the “Wild West” of medicine — but we found these striking points to be rather profound:
- Only 1% of U.S. babies are born from IVF while countries that cover fertility treatment, such as Denmark, are closer to 10%.
- One-third of U.S. states offer some sort of fertility coverage.
- Egg freezing is a fast-growing trend: in 2017, women underwent nearly 11,000 egg-freezing cycles, up from 475 in 2009. However, 90% of frozen eggs have not been used and clinics exclusively offering egg freezing are having a hard time keeping doors open.
- “Unexplained infertility” is the diagnosis for one-third of cases.
- Fertility benefits providers have popped up in the insurance industry, with companies like Progyny raising nearly $100 million in venture capital and has a market cap approaching $3 billion.
- Startup NextGen Jane is researching reproductive disorders (like endometriosis) and raised $9 million last year.
- Modern Fertility, the provider of at-home hormone fertility tests, was founded in 2017 and has since raised $22 million.
One of Kowitt’s greatest conclusions in her research is that, even with investments and advancements, the growing business does not come without controversy. Infertility is not easily “diagnosed,” other disorders such as endometriosis receive more focus because of pregnancy and female reproduction versus general health issues (thus placing major value on a woman’s ability to reproduce) and, possibly most significantly, paradigms like “the conflation of womanhood and motherhood, the belief that biological ties are the best way to create a family, the implication that the burden of reproduction lies with women” still exist.
This was a VERY interesting read for nerds like us and you can check out this version of the article if you do not subscribe to Fortune. We hope this helps education you and also comfort you knowing more options are arising.
Photo courtesy Fortune.