Scientifically Rebellious

During Laurel’s final year of business school, she took a product design class. One of her assignments was to identify a challenge and design a product to solve that challenge. Laurel and her team identified a problem with mammograms – false positive results are common, which can send women through the stressful, emotional, and invasive experience of undergoing a biopsy to find in the end they worried for nothing. Laurel herself went through this in her twenties; a doctor felt that something was “off,” and she underwent a surgery just to find that there wasn’t a problem in the first place. In her product design class, Laurel worked with a team to build a prototype of a bra that measures breast density, information which could help physicians decide at what point their patients should start getting annual mammograms. 

“We should do anything to avoid that scary series of experiences,” Laurel said. “Even if it ultimately ends up fine, it’s still hard to go through.”

Throughout her school years, Laurel knew she was interested in women’s healthcare. There were experiences she had like that of an inaccurate mammogram and trouble finding a form of birth control that worked for her that contributed to her mounting passion. Laurel tried a couple different pills as contraception when she was younger, and when she first started using birth control, she didn’t know what to expect. One side effect she experienced on the pill was that sex started feeling physically uncomfortable. At the time, she didn’t have the vocabulary to speak up about that experience, so she brushed it under the rug. In 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president, Laurel felt concerned that access to birth control may be restricted, so she opted for a long term form of birth control – the IUD. Several of her friends had the IUD at the time and liked it – it’s easy, it’s good for several years, and it’s highly effective. 

“The IUD was a way better option for me [than the pill],” Laurel said. “It ended up being nice to not have to think about taking a pill. And the symptoms that I had been experiencing [on the pill] totally disappeared, so there was no question they were [caused by] that specific pill.”

After she graduated business school in 2020, Laurel came across an article about adyn, a company that developed “The Birth Control Test” to help women understand what side effects a birth control may have on their body before using the birth control. Laurel reached out to the CEO and applied for a full-time position.

“Working [at adyn] opened my eyes to just how many side effects people can experience,” Laurel said. “One thing to recognize is that you are definitely not the only person to experience a side effect. Every side effect has been and is experienced by other people – some remain anecdotal, some have scientific evidence. [At adyn] we look at Google searches, and there’s an incredible volume of searches for just about any side effect you can think of – vaginal dryness, sex drive declining, depression, anxiety, GI issues, ance, weight gain – which is scary because if the first line of defense to answer these questions is Google, instead of a physician, then we’re failing women.”

Laurel stresses that birth control is not just birth control – it’s medicine. In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control is prescribed to treat conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, chronic migraines, and acne.

“You take what the doctor gives you,” Laurel said, expressing concern that young women may not know how to advocate for themselves and ask important questions in a healthcare context. She recounts her experience going to see a doctor about getting her first pill. “My friends were like, ‘Ask for low hormones,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means but okay!’”

Not only is birth control used as medicine for a variety of conditions, but women also use birth control for an average of thirty years – a significant amount of their life – which makes it even more important that they find an option that works well for them. Laurel says the most heart-warming and empowering part of her work is when women reach out to say they are grateful for how much adyn has helped them improve their health. 

“It’s great to feel like I’m contributing to the world for women,” Laurel said.
“It’s scientifically rebellious. [Women’s health] has been so overlooked for so long. I can’t even imagine working in a different space right now. It doesn’t feel like anything else would be as meaningful or that I would feel as fiery about it.”

*Interview conducted October 13th, 2022 on Zoom.