Some heroes wear vagina-capes and do their kegels.
In this week's Getting To Know You, we're highlighting Estrella Jaramillo Ríos, the fearless co-founder of women's health company B-wom. Check out our interview below!
For starters, what is B-wom?
B-wom is a digital coach for women’s health and self-care. Our app offers women first a test and an evaluation, and then creates a personalized care plan with guided exercises, daily habits, recommendations to achieve specific health goals, a tracking tool, and a marketplace with products. We specifically focus on intimate and sexual health issues that are more common than we think: Incontinence, painful sex and sexual dysfunction, chronic pelvic pain, postpartum recovery, to name a few. We also help women navigate the changes during transitions, from puberty to menopause, and we are now building the contents for breast cancer prevention and emotional health, as it is so closely related to most of our female health issues.
What is the inspiration behind B-wom? What problem(s) are you addressing and how are you solving them?
I had my own very unpleasant experiences when I was younger. I had to deal with intimate and sexual health issues, and in most cases, I got very little education and information. I felt ashamed to tell anyone and had to deal with the anxiety on my own. I tried to educate myself to look for ways to manage my symptoms, and they improved over time, but that’s not always the case. There are health problems that don’t recede with time if specific action isn’t taken. Also, I have always felt really strongly about issues of gender equality, and for me guaranteeing access to quality health solutions and support is a fundamental step on the path to equality.
When we first started, the project was quite focused on pelvic floor health, since there is not enough awareness about that part of our bodies that is so fundamental, especially for us women. As we launched it and grew we identified a much bigger gap that we could cover: many of these problems go unreported or undiagnosed for years, and there aren’t educational protocols to help us navigate all the changes our bodies will go through. We aim to be that personal coach you can go to to identify and understand your symptoms, know how to prevent and correct issues, and keep a “diary” of your intimate and sexual health.
How do you describe your job to family and friends?
I tell them I am a vagina-cape wearing Kegel super-shero. Joke. I tell them that I use technology to bring women solutions and personalized information that they normally don’t have easy access. Working in this field has actually brought me closer to important women in my life, like my mom and my aunt, who now feel comfortable to share their experiences with me, and I am happy to be of help in their health journeys. I saw it as a big opportunity to break taboos with my family, and because I feel comfortable discussing these topics, they feel invited to do so, too.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Definitely helping women get the knowledge and resources they need to understand their health and symptoms and gain the confidence to make informed decisions about their health. It’s great to hear back from users telling us their personal stories and how they found great support in using our app. We know people that had symptoms like discomfort during sex or leaks for a prolonged time and by following our recommendations they started seeing great improvements! Also, I get to travel a lot raising awareness about something that I deeply care about and I get to talk to many incredible professionals and fellow female founders - like the tabú team!
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Like with any other startup venture, there are and will always be plenty of challenges. Especially when you are operating internationally, you need to quickly gain an understanding of the needs and pains in completely different healthcare systems. It’s like having to raise your own bar and level every week. By the time you have grown to face a challenge, here comes another!
Maybe one of the challenges that requires ongoing work is sitting with leading professionals and advocating for women’s intimate and sexual health to be at the forefront of the healthcare agenda. We need better care protocols. The fact that certain concerns get silenced doesn’t mean they don’t have a tremendous impact on a women’s wellbeing. Whenever a sports player gets injured there are specific physical therapy protocols to restore the muscles, and yet women give birth, which causes a lot of stress on the abdominals and the pelvic floor, and we are expected to magically bounce back. Physical therapy and continued support should be an established part of at least the first 6 months after delivery so that we provide women with the support for a successful recovery.
Being a founder is an ongoing struggle, particularly in this sensitive space. How do you practice self-care and maintain your own mental health?
I aim to get better at that, and to establish a daily meditation practice, because I’m still not fully consistent and I think that for me it is the key to staying grounded when things get tough. There have been difficult moments in the past 3 years, and my 3 workouts a week and some daily meditation helped me push through until the storm had passed. I’d say the biggest act of self-care for me is to have a personal coach that has helped me navigate my emotions during big transitions. I work with him regularly and it makes a big difference. When you are leading a company, there is a lot of pressure not just to always perform, but also to always look like you are on top of everything and have it all figured out - and honestly this is hardly the truth. Therefore, it is crucial to have close mentors and a coach you can rely on to discuss your challenges, and to get the mental health support you need to successfully address challenges.
What advice would you give to people to advocate for themselves with their healthcare providers?
If you are not satisfied with the solution you were given, or your concerns are being slightly disregarded but your gut tells you there’s something off, seek a second opinion. Be informed, look for trustworthy resources to understand your symptoms, and express your concerns openly. We are operating in a system where doctors usually don’t have more than 15 min per patient, therefore sometimes advocacy is important!
Header image illustrated by Marcy Gooberman / Photo by Michelle McSwain / Screenshots from B-wom app
To learn more about B-wom, check out their app in the app store!