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A revolution in the ‘family planning’ aisle: pregnancy tests with baby-free branding

June 17, 2020, 3:30 PM UTC

Women’s health startup Modern Fertility is launching a pair of tests—one for detecting pregnancy and the other for ovulation—that will immediately stand out from the competition. Not for any extra bells and whistles, but for what they lack: Not a single cute baby adorns their packaging.

It’s a very intentional choice by the three-year-old startup. The San Francisco–based company’s first product was an at-home hormone fertility test—one that historically would only be given at a fertility clinic to women struggling to conceive.

And yet when Modern Fertility surveyed its users, nearly 75% of them said they were not currently trying to get pregnant. Instead, they reported using the hormone test to better understand their reproductive health.

“It reflects a broader industry and societal trend,” says Modern Fertility cofounder and CEO Afton Vechery. “It validates that the whole fertility category needs to be broader.”

She noted that with half the pregnancies in the U.S. unplanned and one in six couples struggling to conceive, some of the baby-centric products currently on the market “can be triggering to a lot of women. When you go to buy these products,” she says, “they imply that you’re trying for one thing—that you’re thinking about babies right now.”

The launch today of Modern Fertility’s new products and an upcoming app, which helps read and track test results, is part of a broader push by the company to shift the fertility category into what Vechery calls “mainstream wellness.”  

“If you think about the founding principles and goals for the company,” says Kirsten Green, founding partner of venture capital firm Forerunner Ventures, which led Modern Fertility’s Series A round of funding, “it’s really about broadening the conversation around fertility—even the definition of it.” While much of the research and funding in the space has been invested in infertility, or couples struggling to conceive, Vechery says her goal is “building a fertility company for women who don’t have fertility issues” so they can be more proactive about their reproductive health.

Modern Fertility decided to launch its new products after hearing from some of its users that the ovulation tests—which measure a woman’s peak fertile window—currently on the market weren’t working for them. The simple yes/no tests that tell women whether they are ovulating are ineffective for women whose hormones don’t align with the tests’ standard threshold. Modern Fertility’s product, with the help of its app, gives a specific value of the luteinizing hormone that leads to ovulation and tracks its level over time, instead of giving just a simple positive or negative.

In a survey of 400 women, the company found that the most popular reason women wanted to track their ovulation was not necessarily because they were trying to get pregnant but because they wanted to learn more about their bodies. “These traditional products were designed for this one specific person”—a woman trying to conceive—“but women were using them in new ways,” Vechery says. “We wanted to create the product experience for this new landscape.”

Modern Fertility’s pregnancy tests are admittedly pretty standard, but the company will sell them on its website for $14 for a four-count; top pregnancy tests can cost up to double that amount.

For Green, Modern Fertility fits squarely into her firm’s thesis—one that she says has only been accelerated by COVID-19. “The last decade was a lot about satisfying wants and desires,” she says, “and this next decade will be much more focused on need and things that are vital to us living our best lives.” She adds, “It’s about people and human empowerment and how we can build better businesses around that.”