Hi, FSC Community! Sarah (@sarahlcassidyy) here, jumping on as a guest writer on the blog. I am so excited to have been a part of the FSC community for the past year and I am thrilled to be able to contribute my thoughts on such an amazing platform!
Women’s health, inclusive healthcare, and reproductive rights are topics that are very important to Faith and I, topics that have led to and inspired many in-depth discussions between us, but are often overlooked, neglected, and ignored in mainstream media. In healthcare itself, women and LGTBQ2+ individuals are widely underrepresented and lacking in research, literature, healthcare, knowledge, resources, and services. As someone who fully believes in patient advocacy, autonomous reproductive rights, and inclusive, thorough healthcare, the lack of accessible information and understanding available regarding birth control within the healthcare sector is quite disappointing and not nearly where it needs to be in our society today.
Thus, when I came across Reya Health a year ago, it was almost by chance, yet it felt meant-to-be. With being introduced to Reya and immediately engaged, I really felt as though my outlook on not only my health, but women’s and gender-inclusive healthcare had really found its match. Reya Health is a femtech company that not only cares as much about women’s healthcare and inclusive health advocacy as I do (and as society should), but also aims to get it right the first time for users, forgoing the misguided trial-and-error, “one-size-fits-all” attitude we are so accustomed to when it comes to birth control; accustomed to by the true lacking of society and healthcare. Reya, to me, seemed to appear out of thin air, manifesting itself into my life at a time of personal need for a better-suited birth control option for my lifestyle and body. With Reya, I was able to completely re-evaluate my 22 years of life experience with healthcare as a cis-gendered female and truly recognize the areas that were inadequate, shortcoming, and insufficient in my healthcare journey, thus far. Reya helped me reach for and grasp the patient advocacy and bodily autonomy I had been craving but could not attain alone.
So, let’s learn a little bit more about the heart, mind, and soul of Reya Health: Dallas Barnes, Founder & CEO. Dallas has answered Faith’s, mine, and your questions and we can’t wait to dive deeper with her soon (wink).
If you’d like to read more about Reya Health from my perspective as a guest writer for Reya Health, along with my personal experience with Reya Health and birth control use, check out my articles below! And stay tuned for a special collaboration between FSC & Reya Health, a partnership I am so proud, and thankful, to be a part of.
By: Sarah Cassidy
By: Sarah Cassidy
Q. What personal experiences led you to seek better solutions, resources, and research surrounding the birth control sector within women’s healthcare?
A. I spent years trying different options, all of which made me feel unlike myself or caused adverse symptoms. Through this trial & error experience, I felt unsupported, uninformed, and often dismissed by medical professionals. One method I was using caused debilitating ovarian cysts, chronic UTIs, and perpetuating bacterial vaginal infections. I actually had to go to the hospital because of one of the cysts! That was the last straw for me. I couldn’t believe that an attempt to be proactive about my health had laDDnded me in the hospital. So, I decided to take action and create a solution for others that I wished I had.
Q. What inspired you to start Reya?
A. Once I started speaking out about my experience, more people began to share their own stories with me. I quickly understood that this struggle with the “oh-so common, one-size-fits-all” approach to birth control was not just a “me problem”. 75% of people who use birth control describe their experiences negatively. The current system is failing people with ovaries and harming those I love. I knew if I could improve the process even slightly, it could have life-changing effects for individuals.
Q. One of Reya’s mission statements is “birth control is not a one size fits all”. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you?
A. Totally! First, we aren’t taught about birth control in a standardized and comprehensive way. Oftentimes, when people hear the term “birth control” they think of the pill and maybe condoms. Thus, we are going into this search with a pretty thin foundation already.
On top of that, doctors are busy people! They may only have 10 to 15 minutes with each patient and that truly is not enough time to dive deep into where individuals are coming from and what their unique situation is. What typically happens is physicians prescribe what they are most familiar with or what they have free samples of, and this is not always what’s best for that particular patient.
The current contraceptive counseling process is not set up for personalization or thoughtful support. It operates similar to a business transaction. This means people are being recommended birth control with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. It does not serve the individual!
Q. What would you say is the biggest misconception about birth control?
A. I think a big misconception is that birth control is just for cis-gender, straight women, when in reality, people of all genders and identities need safe access to contraceptive care, reproductive health information, and support. As someone from the LGBTQ2A+ community, it’s so important to me that we support those accessing birth control for STI prevention, hormones, pain management, etc., and who do not fit the typical mold. It’s equally as important that we address folks properly and create safe spaces for everyone to learn and ask questions about their body and reproductive health.
Q. How should individuals approach the process of finding a new birth control option for themselves? What are some preliminary steps people should take before starting a new brand of birth control?
A. I’m often asked this question and my response is always “what is your goal with using birth control?” That really helps individuals prioritize options and moves them forward in a way that holds integrity.
Next, we can split methods into two categories: hormonal and non-hormonal. I encourage everyone to think whether it’s important that their birth control contains hormones or not. These two questions are already deeply aligning someone’s values with the method they choose.
It’s also crucial for individuals to do their own research and seek communities (ahem, Reya) that enable safe learning spaces and provide credible information. Don’t always assume that someone else knows what’s best for you. You know your body best and it’s important to take power in that!
Q. What are some red flags people can look out for when trialing new birth control methods?
A. This is totally subjective. People’s comfort levels differ immensely and that’s just part of being human! It’s critical to understand that as with a new medication, exercise routine, or diet, when starting a new birth control method, your body goes through an adjustment period. During this time, people may experience symptoms as their body gets used to the option; this goes for hormonal and non-hormonal methods! It’s up to the individual to decide which symptoms, and at what severity, they are willing to tolerate.
Of course, birth control should never make someone feel totally uncomfortable and if you are not having a great time with one method, that’s okay. Also, there are just general medical concerns to be aware of when trialing a new method, such as pain in the abdomen, chest or elsewhere, vaginal irritation or different discharge, swelling or numbness in legs or other extremities, dizziness, blurred or loss of vision, or shortness of breath. Or if you are experiencing anything that is abnormal and you’re concerned, you should see a doctor.
Q. What is one piece of advice you’d give to birth control users?
A. Trust your gut and do what feels right for you. Your healthcare provider might be the expert in medicine, but you are the expert of your body and life. This process should be collaborative! Ask all of the questions and learn some tips and tools (via Reya) on how to be your own health advocate.
Q. How can birth control users benefit from Reya?
A. When you first sign up with Reya, you go through a questionnaire which gives our system a comprehensive understanding of you! Reya matches you to the best birth control option for you by assessing your medical history, hormonal profile, preferences, lifestyle, and much more. The Reya Membership includes tailored birth control suggestions, a side effect and symptom tracker, personalized insights, faster solutions, and higher quality, continuous care. Reya is different because we aim to fill the knowledge gap, not enable the trial-and-error, one-size-fits-all process.
Reya is all about personalization! We believe it’s important to take time to get to know you before matching you to a birth control option. Our database also covers both hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptives. Our platform helps individuals track and monitor any side effects or symptoms with our daily tracker. We are there with you the whole way with personalized insights and information! It can be a journey and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.
For more information about topics discussed in this article visit https://www.reyahealth.ca <3