Sextech: How is it revolutionizing female sexual health in India

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Representational image. News 18

Reshma, a 27-year-old, felt pain while having sex and tightness in the vagina. She had been experiencing these symptoms for the past three months and became fearful of sexual intercourse. Since she was not comfortable discussing her problems with family members, she continued to suffer silently. She later confided in a friend who recommended an online sexual wellness clinic where she could get personalised, judgement-free, and discreet advice from a specialist. Upon consultation, the doctor diagnosed her with primary vaginismus, a condition that causes tensing of pelvic muscles leading to painful intercourse. But she was relieved that it was easily treatable. Reshma was prescribed appropriate medications and underwent therapy which resolved her problem.

Several women can relate to Reshma’s story as nearly 40-50% of all women experience at least one symptom of sexual dysfunction and conditions associated with hormonal changes. However, most women do not receive treatment essentially because open conversations about sexual problems are still considered taboo. Moreover, the number of specialists in this field are woefully inadequate, making them inaccessible to most of the sufferers.

However, in the last few years, with the advent of digital technology and startups, there has been a growing demand for innovations targeted toward women. Femtech and sextech startups are revolutionising the sexual health of women by increasing the use of digital applications. The global sexual wellness market touched USD 30.33 billion in 2021 and is expected to generate revenue at the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% by 2030. Out of this, the femtech market is expected to grow to USD 60 billion by 2027. India leads the chart in Asia and accounts for 5% of femtech companies.

The rise of digital solutions for ‘her’ sexual health

Women traditionally do not pay attention to their physical and mental health. Moreover, sexual health remains the least discussed due to misinformation, lack of awareness and the stigma associated with it. As a result, women are usually ignorant or have misconceptions about various underlying medical conditions that may adversely impact their sexual life. Many women with ailments such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and vaginismus often depend on unauthentic sources for information, leading to misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

In India, many femtech and sextech companies are providing an array of solutions to uplift and improve healthcare for women across various dimensions such as menstrual health, sexual health, fertility, menopause, maternal care and contraception. They are addressing the lack of dialogue around sexual wellness in our society and normalising conversations around it. These companies are improving care delivery through app-based doctor consultations, education through services and products, and at-home diagnostics. According to the diagnosis, they help in delivering effective mental, physical, and medical interventions to women in need.

Future of women’s sexual well-being

Finding a doctor who is empathetic and non-judgmental has been an age-old challenge for women. Failure to have sex-positive conversations often gives rise to misunderstandings and confusion, forcing women to perceive that pain, discomfort during intercourse, or lack of interest in sexual activity is unavoidable and expected, thereby leading to delayed care.

Dissemination of technology, to a large extent, has helped women overcome the humiliation, shame and concern associated with sexual wellness. Certain Sextech startups encourage and guide women to initiate sex-positive conversations with their partners to maintain healthy relationships.

Now more than ever, there has been a rising demand for such platforms that are working towards normalising sexual wellness for women. In a country like India, where 70% of the population has poor or no connectivity to digital services, we still have a long way to go to make these options available to all women.

The author is the founder and CEO of Allo Health, a sextech startup. Views are personal.

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