Women’s Health is an Unseen Opportunity

Our webinar with Startup Tri-Valley & Raydiant Oximetry explores why & what we can do

Avestria Ventures
4 min readApr 18, 2023

On December 7, 2021, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced the first ever Call to Action to improve maternal health. In the accompanying statement, the White House cited one of the reasons of this new focus: the United States has the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world.

And that rate has continued to increase over the past few decades. Defined as the rate at which mothers die during pregnancy, childbirth, or one year after the end of the pregnancy — has been increasing over the few decades, the maternal mortality rate for 2021 was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2020, the number of deaths was 23.8, in 2019, it was 20.1, in 2010, it was about 16, and, in 1990, it was as low as eight.

For Black women, that grim reality only worsens. In 2021, non-Hispanic Black women had a maternal mortality rate of 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, and their maternal mortality rate is consistently two to three times higher than that of Non-Hispanic White women.

The maternal mortality rate in the U.S has been consistently rising. Data here for the 1980 rate, 1990 rate, 2000 rate, 2010 rate, and 2020 rate.

Postpartum hemorrhage (or excessive bleeding), labor and delivery complications, and infections can add to the maternal mortality rate across races, ethnicities, and income statuses. And yet, the estimate is that more than 60% of maternal deaths are preventable.

One company focused on keeping mothers, and their babies, safe during childbirth is Raydiant Oximetry.

Raydiant is developing LUMERAH: a low-cost, non-invasive device focused on monitoring fetal oxygenation (the amount of oxygen that the fetus is getting) and detecting fetal hypoxia (low level of oxygen). The technology currently used to detect fetal hypoxia is fetal heart rate (FHR) monitoring; when it finds that the fetus’ heart starts beating abnormally and that hypoxia is a risk, the mother often undergoes an emergency cesarean section. C-sections are meant to limit the amount of time the fetus is in the intrauterine environment, which is dangerous without adequate oxygen, and to allow resuscitation of the newborn after delivery.

However, fetal heart rate monitoring was introduced in the 1970s and haven’t seen much innovation since. A 2020 report noted FHR monitoring’s high false positive rate for hypoxia — as well as cerebral palsy, and “impending fetal death during labor” — and a 2019 study found FHR monitoring “has been associated with a nearly 6-fold increase in the overall Cesarean delivery rate in the United States, from 5.5% in 1970 to the current 32%”. Even when medically necessary, C-sections can have a five times higher mortality and morbidity rate than vaginal births do. Black women also have a higher rate of C-sections than White, American Indian/Native American, and Asian and Pacific Islander mothers; a 2022 report found that wearable heart rate devices, including fetal heart rate monitors, may be less accurate on people with darker skin tones than on those with lighter skin.

The average percent of C-section rates for live births by race from 2019–2021 (compared to an average of 31.9). Source here.

Raydiant’s LUMERAH device works with current technology to monitor the oxygen level in the fetus’ blood, using a safe, light-based technology to perform a color analysis to measure the oxygen levels in the fetus’ blood: blood with oxygen is red and blood without oxygen is blue. This measurement allows obstetricians to monitor fetal oxygenation more directly, to diagnose fetal hypoxemia more precisely, and identify potential fetal compromise earlier than FHR monitoring alone. In its clinical study, Raydiant is ensuring that it enrolls diverse patients and measures LUMERAH’s accuracy on those with darker and lighter skin.

CEO and Founder Neil Ray of Raydiant Oximetry was the featured guest in a webinar on the “Unseen Opportunity in Women’s Health” co-hosted by Avestria Ventures and Startup Tri-Valley, on April 25, 2023.

The webinar covered the need for innovative solutions both in maternal health specifically and women’s health generally. Since women are half the population, healthcare research and development (R&D) seemingly should be split evenly between men’s health and women’s health — if actually not tilted in the favor of women since they utilize healthcare more than men do. But only 4% of overall funding for R&D goes to women’s health, leaving an often overlooked opportunity for improvement, innovation, and return on investment; an estimated $300 million investment into research focused on women could lead to a $13 billion economic return.

Potential returns on women’s health-focused investments. Source here.

Hear more about the unseen opportunity in women’s health and about Neil and Raydiant’s mission to keep mothers — and babies — safe by watching this replay of the webinar.

At Avestria Ventures, we look for early-stage women’s health and female-led life science companies with products or technologies that improve healthcare quality and/or access, lower costs, induce clinical or behavioral change, are evidence based, have scalable commercialization plans, and have a sustainable competitive advantage. Know one? Contact us via our website, LinkedIn, or Twitter.



Avestria Ventures

Investing in early-stage women’s health and female-led life sciences companies.