One of the reasons I love working in femtech, the rapidly evolving intersection of technology and women’s health, is that companies in our space are constantly innovating to cater to the diverse needs of women around the globe. A notable trend that has recently emerged is the inclusion of ‘partner features’ in reproductive health apps. Take, for example, the popular fertility tracking solutions, Natural Cycles, and the newly updated Flo Health, both of which now offer this feature.

At its core, the partner feature allows users to share their reproductive health data with their partner. Pretty straight forward I guess. But I’d also argue that this is not just about an app update. It’s about the crossroads of intimacy, tech, and personal boundaries.

So the question that arises, and that I’d like to spend some time exploring today, is: Should we want to be sharing all of this with our partners?

Well… As so often… It depends.

The Upsides:

  1. Shared Responsibility: Reproductive health is not just a ‘women’s issue’. It is about relationships, families, and futures. When partners are involved in tracking and understanding the fertility cycle, it fosters a sense of shared responsibility. The random conversation I had with a fellow male entrepreneur at a business event the other day shall serve as a proof point here: He actively followed the app to support his partner’s decision to get off hormonal birth control. It is indeed heartening to see partners willing to engage and support. Kudos to him!
  2. Enhanced Communication: Transparency can lead to enhanced communication. By sharing this deeply personal data, couples can discuss their future plans, aspirations, and also their fears in a more informed manner. It can also promote mutual understanding when it comes to intimacy and relationship dynamics.
  3. Educational Benefit: Many men admit to having limited knowledge about the menstrual cycle, fertility, or the challenges women face in relation to their reproductive health. Access to this data can be educational and an eye-opener for many, dismantling myths and fostering empathy.

The Downsides:

  1. Privacy Concerns: Health data is deeply personal. While sharing with a partner can be empowering for some, for others, it might feel like an invasion of privacy. There’s also the risk associated with data breaches and the potential misuse of this information.
  2. Unwanted Pressure: For couples trying to conceive, having both parties constantly in the loop can sometimes lead to undue stress or pressure, potentially straining the relationship.
  3. Potential for Misuse: In unfortunate cases, such data can be weaponized. Reproductive coercion is a grave concern and sharing such data can, in some cases, play into unhealthy dynamics or abusive relationships.

The Verdict

Like with many other tools, the utility and appropriateness of partner features in reproductive health apps depend largely on the dynamics of individual relationships and personal boundaries. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. For those who find comfort in sharing, these features can be a great addition. For others, keeping their health data private might be of utmost importance. The key lies in choice. And apps should ensure that the sharing feature is optional and easily customizable. Users should be in full control of what they share, with whom, and when.

The world of femtech is not just about software and algorithms; it’s about understanding and championing the deeply personal journey of women and couples. The rise of partner features in reproductive health apps showcases the possibilities of where technology and compassion can converge. Every individual, every couple, has their unique story, their challenges, and their dreams. Empowering them with the right tools to navigate these paths is essential, but if and how they use these tools should always remain a deeply personal choice.

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