The Campaigning Health Innovator: ‘Contraceptive methods are not good enough’

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  • As Marie Claire launches Women in Tech week, we meet Alice Pelton: the reproductive health innovator who created the world's first contraception review platform

    It’s estimated around 314 million women and girls are using some form of contraception, but for many of us, finding the right method can be a minefield.

    If you’ve been researching the different types of contraceptives yourself, we reckon you might want to check out The Lowdown. Co-founded by Alice Pelton, it’s a contraceptive platform designed to help women find helpful, user-generated data on contraceptive methods and change the operating system for women’s health.

    After suffering from horrendous side effects from contraception herself- Alice started taking the Pill when she was 16 and it took her over a decade to realise the impact hormonal contraceptives had on her mental health – she knew other women would be struggling, too.

    Here, Alice fills us in.

    Researching different types of contraceptives? Check out The Lowdown

    Why I set up The Lowdown

    For years I’d been struggling to find a contraceptive method that didn’t negatively impact my mood. I had been on Microgynon since I was 16 but gradually realised it reduced me to an emotional, irritable wreck who cried almost all the time. In my ten-year search for the right method, I realised there was a whole world of problems with contraception that I wanted to try and fix. They included:

    Lack of data. I couldn’t find useful data on real women’s experiences and side effects from contraception at scale, anywhere. Like many areas of women’s health, the lack of interest by Pharma leads to a gender data gap that means we waste time and money trying or not knowing what’s right for us.

    Lack of taking women seriously. Women’s complaints of side effects, risks and problems with the different types of contraceptives have been ignored for centuries. I wanted to create a safe space where women could feel comfortable enough sharing their experiences, and normalise, reassure and support the sisterhood. And in doing so, remedy some of the gender data gap I talk about above.

    Lack of real choice. The range of contraceptive methods available to us are simply not good enough. Women in the UK are still mainly prescribed pills that were developed in the 60’s, and there has been very little innovation and funding in the contraceptive space for the last 20 years. I want to use The Lowdown as a platform to drive for much needed investment in this space.

    The idea when I was on sabbatical in 2017 – I was out for dinner with my boyfriend and it popped into my head; we review everything from our hotels to our tradesmen, so why don’t we review our contraception?

    At the beginning of 2020, I quit my job to focus on The Lowdown full time and found my technical co-founder David via the talent investors program, Entrepreneur First, in March.

    About The Lowdown

    The Lowdown is the world’s first review platform for the many different types of contraceptives. Our mission is to make conception easier to choose, access, and use. To date we’ve collected over 3,500 anonymous, real-person reviews from people on every method and brand available in the UK. Over 60,000 women come to us every month – and we use this data to help them make better informed decisions about what’s best for them.

    We are building out our community, recommendation engine and expert advice service to make contraception easy for 1 billion people worldwide who use it. It’s amazing what we’ve unearthed from the reviews on the platform. These are just some of the stats/findings collected from Feb 2019 to the present…

    The most commonly reviewed method is the Combined Pill.

    • The most common method in the UK makes up 1 in 3 Lowdown reviews and is the most reviewed method by 18–25-year-olds. It’s a great option for younger women to try when they are beginning to understand their options for the first time.

    The Hormonal coil (IUS) is women’s favourite method of contraception.

    • The Hormonal IUS tops our overall satisfaction ratings – with an average 3.5 out of 5.
    • Lowdown data shows that the Hormonal IUS doesn’t seem to negatively impact mood or reduce women’s sex drive as much as other methods.

    51% of women feel their contraception has negatively impacted their moods and emotions.

    • Science has yet to prove a definitive link between hormonal contraception and mood – but Lowdown data suggests that so much more research needs to be done into this area.
    • The Lowdown findings show that almost half of women had trouble trying to find a method of contraception that suited them.

    Women who have used a method for longer are more satisfied with the method they are reviewing.

    • When it comes to hormonal contraception, the general consensus is that it takes around three menstrual cycles for the body to adjust to the change in hormones.

    Women in their forties are most satisfied with their contraception – and Under 18’s are the most dissatisfied with their contraception.

    • Under 18’s on average report a 2.5 satisfaction rating – finding their method ‘Poor’ whereas 41-45 year old women report the highest average satisfaction rating of any age group – 3.7 out of 5.

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