Hertility Q&A with Ruby Relton

The Egalitarian met with Ruby Relton, the Senior Research Associate at Hertility, to chat with her about who Hertility are and what they’re up to. She tells us a bit about the history of healthcare for women and people assigned female at birth and what Hertility intend to do about this. Make sure to look out for the next couple of days’ content to learn more about their fertility testing kit so you can purchase one with 10% off with the code EGALITARIAN23 here.

The Egalitarian: Hi Ruby! Who is Hertility, and what does the company stand for?

Hertility (Ruby): Hi, I’m Ruby Relton, the Senior Research Associate here at Hertility - we are a reproductive health company bringing the latest reproductive science out of the lab and into the hands of  women and people assigned female at birth everywhere.

Through at-home hormone and fertility testing, telemedicine and treatment, Hertility supports every body  from menstruation through menopause.

Ultimately, our vision is to reinvent healthcare for every woman and nurture the Mother of all Movements by empowering a new generation of people who want to know their bodies and take control of their life choices. We call this the Reproductive Revolution!

The Egalitarian: so, what does the history of healthcare for people with ovaries look like? What kind of statistics does this leave us with now, and what kind of problems are they facing within our current healthcare system?

Ruby: Historically, women have been and continue to be underserved by the healthcare system, with solutions and systems based on the male default. In 1977, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued guidance banning most women of "childbearing potential" from participating in clinical research studies. In 1993, the FDA issued a new guideline and formally rescinded the 1977 policy that banned most women from participating in studies. It wasn’t until 1998 that New Drug Applications had to present safety and efficacy data from important populations, including sex, age, and racial subgroups. Data on sex is inconsistently published by journals on drug efficacy, safety and toxicity, with companies rarely reporting sex or gender differences on product labels. In fact, in 2019, of the 40 medicines registered by FDA for conditions affecting both men and women, 16 had 50% or less representation of women included in their clinical trials (Reference). We have seen women continually suffer worse outcomes and receive substandard care across the globe.

This is not a phenomenon which is just limited to reproductive health. We see this across many different areas, such as Cardiovascular Disease (Reference) and Dementia (Reference). Women spend around over a quarter of their lives in ill health or disability, compared with around one-fifth of men, despite having a longer life expectancy (Reference). 

When it comes to their reproductive health specifically, it is known that women often experience symptom dismissal by healthcare practitioners, delays in diagnosis and therefore spend a greater amount of time with unmanaged health conditions, (our editor Holly discusses this in her articles about Urinary Tract Infections) which can affect their quality of life. A report by Endometriosis UK has shown that it can take an average of up to 8 years to receive a diagnosis, with over half of the people surveyed visiting their GP 10 or more times prior to getting a diagnosis (reference).

The Egalitarian: we can clearly see that female healthcare is not taken seriously and never has been. How is Hertility helping to solve these problems?

Ruby: Instead of trying to retrofit women into a healthcare system which was not designed with them in mind, Hertility exists to redesign the way we imagine reproductive healthcare for people today through providing at-home reproductive health screening, access to education created and delivered by experts (check out our youtube channel for some of the sessions we have run in the past!) and using data from a diverse data set, to provide insights and drive change in the field of reproductive health (read the latest version of our Reproductive Report to see how we are pioneering change in reproductive health). 

Our test is a ‘first step’ into finding out more about your body. By measuring up to 10 different hormones, we are able to not only give people an insight into their ovarian reserve but to also screen for up to 18 conditions relating to reproductive health. 

However, we believe in giving people much more than just answers. We welcome every body who comes on the Hertility journey into our community of care by offering appointments with experts in reproductive health, PCOS, Endometriosis, Infertility and much more. Our goal is to deliver high-quality reproductive healthcare that fits conveniently into the lives of those who need it most. 

The Egalitarian: What are the different categories of people who may be interested in Hertility? What type of people should consider taking your fertility test?

Ruby: Hertility caters to people at all stages of their reproductive journey and our Hormone and Fertility test can be used by people who are assigned female at birth, who are not currently taking gender-affirming hormone therapy and have their reproductive anatomy. We have created four different categories in which customers may align themselves with. 

 These categories are:

  • Planning for the future - for those who want to have children but aren’t quite ready
  • Actively trying to conceive - for those who have already begun their fertility journey
  • Experiencing symptoms - whether this be fatigue, acne, heavy or irregular periods, whatever your concerns might be. 
  • Just curious - for those who just want to check where they are at

The Egalitarian: We love the intersectionality of your brand when speaking about all people with ovaries. How do people who identify within this bracket (women, non-binary etc.) experience life/the above issues differently?

Ruby: Reproductive health issues and accessing reproductive health services (like cervical screening programmes) can be stress-inducing or difficult for someone who is non-binary or gender diverse. For example, trans men may find themselves unable to access certain resources or information that is inclusive. So for Hertility, having a product you can do from the comfort of your home may reduce these feelings and inequality, and therefore is an essential part of our mission. Our Hormone and Fertility Test is here to help anyone who is assigned female at birth looking to gain insight into their hormone health.

You can take a Hertility test if you are on any form of hormonal medication including hormone therapy. However, depending on what medication you are taking, some hormones may not be included in your panel. 

If someone is undergoing gender-affirming hormone therapy, we recommend they check with their prescribing doctor before purchasing a Hertility test. This is because some of the hormones that we test will likely be skewed as a result of gender-affirming medication. 

Therefore, depending on your medication type, dosage and how long you’ve been taking it, your results may not be representative of your hormonal health prior to undergoing gender-affirming therapy. 

For those undergoing gender-affirming surgery, fertility preservation prior to transitioning can be an important part of the process, but often information is not readily available/easy to access. We support anyone looking to preserve their fertility through our partner fertility clinics.

Hertility also provides resources such as our same-sex guide to getting pregnant and articles on our knowledge centre such as Fertility for Trans People: A Journey to Embryo Freezing for people who fall into this category and want help and support with their own fertility. 

The Egalitarian: What is Hertility’s ‘5-year plan’? How would you like healthcare for people with ovaries to change and progress?

Ruby: We want to revolutionise the way in which women and people assigned female at birth experience reproductive healthcare. We aim to create an environment where being proactive when it comes to your reproductive health and fertility is the norm and is celebrated.

Our revenue fuels our research. With every test taken, we’re one step closer to reducing

the gender care gap and revolutionising women’s health. Every person who approaches Hertility and begins their journey with us is asked whether they consent to their anonymised data being used in research, and only the people who consented are included in our groundbreaking research looking into closing the data gap. We want to pioneer a new way of diagnosis through at-home testing and radically reduce diagnosis times for common reproductive health conditions.

The Egalitarian: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Ruby: We are ultimately a team of researchers and educators, and for too long, we feel information about reproductive health has been gatekept, rife with complex terminology and not reflective of the lived experiences of the people  it is designed to reach. We are looking to bring up-to-date, reliable information into the hands of women and people with ovaries to ensure that they feel empowered and informed when it comes to their care. Part of this means, considering the nuanced experiences of people affected by various levels of intersectionality when it comes to their reproductive health.  Hertility’s Black Women’s Health Initiative, recent report and launch event discussed our plans to take this beyond being data alone and to work on something which can contribute to creating lasting change within Black women’s reproductive health.

Find the link to our product review of Hertility’s test kit on our blog and check out both @_theegalitarian and @hertility_health on Instagram for more information about the test kit itself and developments in reproductive health.

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