Meet the scientist empowering women to own their reproductive health

February 23, 2022

Written By

Amy Brookes

Dr Helen O’Neill was three months pregnant when she set up Hertility Health to give people like her the knowledge and confidence they need to make key life decisions

As a lecturer in reproductive and molecular genetics at University College London, Dr Helen O’Neill has spent much of her life researching fertility. But it wasn’t until she started thinking about having children herself that she spotted a gap in the market that her expertise seemed perfect to fill.

“It started with wanting to check in on my own reproductive health,” says Dr O’Neill 36, from London. “I found it strange that I was lecturing about the risks associated with advanced age and fertility, and yet the denial around it is so pervasive. We’re all career women, working away our fertile years because we have other goals or haven’t settled down.

“I also realised that there was an emotional and financial barrier to finding out about your fertility. You can’t get anything on the NHS. To be referred, you have to have been trying to get pregnant for a year. It made no sense.”

Hertility Health is the result. Dr O’Neill  incorporated the innovative healthtech company, which applies a precision medicine-based approach to reproductive health, in 2019 – while she was three months pregnant.

“We developed a home test where you can check your fertility,” she says. “We start by doing a virtual health assessment, then tailor a test according to symptoms, and send back the results, clearly coded. There are over 54,000 variables, but the idea is to explain things very clearly. It’s a comprehensive clinical decision tool.”

From there, clients can speak with consultants and discuss next steps. “We are offering full end-to-end care, not just a test result,” says Dr O’Neill.

The overall service is an extensive triage for fertility that doesn’t need to be expensive, and is accessible to anyone. Hertility Health went live in September 2020, and the reaction has been extremely positive.

“We’ve had great feedback,” she says. “We are an all-female founding team, and we know our target market, because we are it.”

A foundation of knowledge

Dr O’Neill still lectures at UCL, where she is also director for the MSc in reproductive science and women’s health. “Working as a research scientist, it’s sometimes hard to apply your dedication and research to something really practical,” she says. “So it’s amazing being able to help people’s lives in a positive and impactful way.”

The Samsung Founders Forum has been inspiring, too. “It’s been an amazing experience, meeting with so many other founders and sharing their journeys,” she says. “The Curiosity Unfolded project, explaining the idea to primary school kids, was fun, too. I explained that hormones are like music, and just like an orchestra, those hormones can combine to make you feel amazing, or sad. And if one is out of tune, it ruins the whole song.” Hertility Health, then, must be the perfect conductor.



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