There are many definitions of the word, “labor.” Oxford Dictionary provides context for the definition as follows:

  • To work, as in especially hard physical work
  • To make great effort (as in, “laboring from dawn to dusk”)
  • To have difficulty in doing something despite working hard.

For this third point, Oxford offers these synonyms: “strive, struggle, endeavor, try hard, do one’s best, do all one can, go all out, fight, push, be at pains, put oneself out.”

And finally, one fourth contextual point: “A labor of love.”

That is indeed the perfect framing this Labor Day week for my welcome to Natalist, a new entrant into the growing health ecosystem firmly focused on fertility…”inspired by beauty and backed by science,” the tagline reads.

The organization is bolstered by this commitment to being science-based: this landing page details just what Natalist isn’t selling: you won’t find birth control cleanses, ovarian reserve testing, fertility teas, home sperm tests, gender prediction, or fertility crystals here.

What you will find is a one-month or perennial subscription kit containing the “Get Pregnant Bundle,” which is one month’s worth of products: 7 ovulation tests, 3 pregnancy tests, one month of a prenatal multi vitamin, one month of Omega DHA, and the Conception 101 book. The science baked into this kit is detailed with links on this page.

The Founder of Natalist is Halle Tecco, who was Founder of Rock Health, an early-stage investor in digital health who played a major role in defining the space in its nascent phase. In full transparency, Halle has been my friend and colleague for many years, so my welcoming Natalist to our health-world has some personal passion behind it.

What else you’ll find at Natalist is a largely women-populated team, pictured here. While this seems like a no-brainer — women’s health, OB-GYN, fertility — this is not the norm, even in the fertility world. Brava! Natalist.

What’s also unique about Natalist is that it’s headquartered in Charleston, SC. The company talks about its corporate culture on the website, noting on its recruitment page that, “We are proud to be headquartered in Charleston, SC. We go kite-surfing after work and eat biscuits on the weekend. Work-life balance is easier to accomplish when you love where you live.”

Here’s how Halle describes herself at Natalist CEO on Medium: Women’s health advocate and healthcare investor. MBA, Harvard. MPH, Johns Hopkins. #mom #IVF #miscarriage

In fuller transparency, I have also been a fertility patient, and so have more than a passing interest for Natalist to be successful.

Halle took time with me to answer a few questions about Natalist for the Health Populi blog.  Here’s what we covered…

Q from Jane: What was the lightbulb moment for you that was the seed for the Natalist mission and vision?

A from Halle: I had the initial idea years ago when I was purchasing all these fertility products (e.g. basal thermometers, ovulation tests) and just loathed the experience. I kept it in the back of my mind, and started looking to invest in companies that were trying to humanize the fertility experience. I actually bought the domain “Baby Someday” on Feb 22, 2016, right after my first round of IVF.

Q: What kind of market research did you do to figure out your niche with consumers/women and influencers (perhaps physicians, mental health professionals, advocates, professional associations, etc.) and business model?

A: Girl you know this was a long, in-depth process 🙂

I started looking at the space with my investor hat on. I did not intend to start the company, I was hoping to find an existing company. So I dug into the macro: market size, incumbents, trends, etc. It checked all the boxes in terms of market size and exit opportunities. But no one was doing exactly this, so I then thought I would find a CEO, pitch them my idea and give them the funding to get up and running. I talked to a few CEOs but ultimately realized this needed to be my big second act.

Once I decided to dive in, I brought on a few key people to help us really understand the micro dynamics. We interviewed dozens of women, did a survey of 1200 pregnant women, and hosted focus groups. We realized so many women felt the same way about the “TTC” (trying to conceive) experience and were ready to help us build something great.

Q: How does or can Natalist link with OB-GYNs in a workflow for continuity of care?

A: If I’ve learned anything in this industry, it’s that the best way to improve healthcare is to work with the experts. For example, we don’t plan on entering the D2C fertility drug space because we think these decisions should be made in concert with your OBGYN and not by a faceless, remote doctor who is paid per prescription.

We follow ACOG guidelines and refer to them often in our content and in our first book, Conception 101. We also used ACOG and APA guidelines to develop our Prenatal Duo.

I hope that by taking these steps to protect patients and not bypass the patient-provider relationship, we can build trust the broader OBGYN community.

Q: What will success look like to you?  You are a keen and critical thinker, so I believe you’ll set a high bar for this metric.

A: Lots of babies! Right now we’re brainstorming ways to celebrate the first 100 Natalist Babies. It’s so exciting to be able to support women (and men) on their path to parenthood. It’s a truly special time in one’s life, and we look forward to connecting with our customers on an authentic, meaningful level.

Now, back to me (Jane). The fertility health care space has lacked empathy and social connectivity, let alone transparency and straight-up knowledge sharing (a la “Conception 101”). As Dr. Naz Homaifar, Natalist Chief Medical Officer (and #twinmom), says on the website, “Trying to get pregnant can be confusing, frustrating, and not as romantic as we imagined it to be. At Natalist, we understand. And we want to help support you through this journey.”

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  There are five sort of mantras on the Natalist website that embody the ethos of the organization: they are,

  • Live your journey
  • Love your body
  • Respect your time
  • Build your knowledge
  • Own your story.

Together, these could be a kind of Declaration of Patient Engagement for health and health care in general.

For fertility, they’re incredibly relevant, and quite personal to me. I’m a #fertilitysurvivor and #adoptivemom.

One night years ago, I was traveling for work to Pittsburgh. During a client dinner at a very tony restaurant on a hill, I excused myself from the table and made my way to the ladies room. Once locked into a lonely stall, I prepared a needle to inject a hormone into my hip for a third month in a row. At that moment in the cold bathroom stall — living my journey, owning my story — I thought — this does not feel like I’m loving my body, nor respecting my time.

I finished up the shot, went back to the table with my sore hip and soldiered through a conversation and dinner with colleagues. I finished up the business trip the next day.

Once home with my husband, I broached the subject of adoption. We never looked back, and love the choice we made, the daughter we’ve raised, and our story which we three together own, share, and love.

There are many routes to building a family. I place a personal, professional and prayer-ful bet that Natalist will make a difference for people challenged by fertility’s rocky, emotional, financially turbulent path. May “lots of babies!” bless the Natalist community.