It’s been about 40 years since the first baby was born via in vitro fertilization (IVF). Today, fertility solutions are becoming more of a norm for many families. In fact, a third of Americans reported that either they have sought out fertility treatments to get pregnant or they know someone who has.
A big contributor to this growing trend is that women are choosing to become mothers at a later age, with more women having their first baby in their early 30s than any other age group.
In 2018, according to the CDC, “birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women under 35, but rose for women in their late 30s and early 40s.” Although the idea of a strict biological clock deadline at age 35 is a myth, it’s more difficult for women in their late 30s and 40s to conceive due to a lack of both quantity and quality of their eggs.
As risk factors and lower rates of successful conception increase with age, many women are turning to IVF, a procedure most insurance policies do not cover, and that on average costs patients almost $23,000 per cycle. In 2017, 72,321 more babies were born as a result of assisted reproductive technologies, a 25% increase over 10 years before. More American women are also opting to freeze their eggs, with 10,936 choosing this route in 2017 compared to 8,825 in 2016.
Given the trend of more women waiting until after their 20s to become mothers, as well as the changing ways in which they conceive, both startups and investors are starting to pay more attention to the fertility space. The global fertility services market is expected to double by 2026, becoming a $41.4 billion industry.
As we enter a new decade, here are five fertility predictions we can expect to see in 2020.
1. Investor funding in the space will surge.
It’s becoming clear to investors that there’s a huge market for fertility services, especially as more women are having kids in their 30s and need to turn to alternative methods to conceive. Last year, venture capitalists and private equity firms poured over $624 million (paywall) into the fertility space, up from $200 million in 2009. Just this year, Morgan Stanley Capital Partners invested in Ovation Fertility, a Los Angeles-based provider of fertility laboratory services.
As demand for fertility services continues to rise, more innovators and entrepreneurs will turn their attention to the space, further driving investor interest.
2. Innovation will spike.
As more money flows into the industry, we can expect to see a rise in entrepreneurs entering the space, fueling innovation at an increased pace. Not only will these new companies make existing fertility solutions available to people who previously didn’t have access to them, but they’ll also undoubtedly bring with them new solutions, such as software, diagnostic tools, products and services.
Over the next year, more traditional solutions that already exist — devices that monitor fertility health, affordable lab tests and employer-provided fertility benefits — will enter the market. The untapped potential that will surge next year lies in services for underserved groups that need specialized care, including same-sex couples and women over 40. While the focus for many companies in recent years has been creating products and services for women in their 20s and 30s, there’s ample room for growth and innovation for those faced with a more unconventional path to pregnancy. Think solutions around reciprocal IVF and surrogacy.
3. The space will become more fragmented.
With increased innovation comes more choices for consumers, but it also brings increased fragmentation. More so than ever before, consumers will be inundated with solutions — Should I get fertility testing? Download an app? Buy a specific device? — which will further muddy an already stressful and expensive process.
While having many choices can be a boon for consumers, it can also create confusion and indecision. Fertility consumers will eventually choose the best solutions but increased fragmentation will also force companies to separate themselves from the pack.
4. Companies who fearmonger to market egg freezing will face a backlash.
While egg freezing services are a great option for women who may want to have children later and should certainly be available to people who want them, some startups have used Facebook and Instagram to target ads at millennials in their late 20s and early 30s, playing on their biological clock insecurities. These practices are unwelcome in most cases and can be hurtful in others — for instance, when the ads popped up in the feed of a woman whose baby was recently stillborn.
Consequently, incidents such as these have placed greater scrutiny on egg freezing, with many observers noting women may be forgoing the advice of doctors and possibly undergoing unnecessary procedures. The category will be under an even bigger microscope next year as activity in the space heats up.
5. ‘Telefertility’ will become more prominent.
Consumers demand immediacy in everything, from transportation to insurance, and in recent years, to medicine. Telehealth solutions, where specialists are available via phone, video or chat are popping up everywhere as consumers demand convenience and personalization.
With the space growing and more women than ever before tuning into their personal fertility health, consumers will demand digital fertility solutions that will make receiving test results, real-time coaching and consultation scheduling simple. Companies that meet these needs will be the ones that stand out in a crowded marketplace.
For women embarking on their pregnancy journeys, 2020 will bring plenty of exciting innovations and more choices to help them start their families. It’s clear the industry has taken its first steps, but will next year mark the end of its awkward teenage phase and entrance into adulthood?