Co-founder and CEO of Pandia Health
For many women, birth control is a great way to avoid pregnancy, heavy periods, acne, anemia, and so much more. In fact, the CDC estimates that over 60% of women aged 15-49 use some kind of contraceptive. While the benefits of birth control are abundant, there are still many barriers for people who want the medication. Many people can’t get birth control methods because of stigmas, lack of insurance, or the price of doctors’ visits.
Dr. Sophia Yen means to change this. She is the co-founder and CEO of Pandia Health, which provides birth control by mail (including free delivery to all 50 states) – along with goodies from other women-owned companies. Pandia Health has a variety of free or affordable options for people with or without insurance.
Continuing our Power Babe series, I’m excited to share with you the conversation I had with this stigma-smashing, affordable health care-providing boss babe.
What does it mean to you to be a Power Babe?
To have Power means the ability to effect change, money, influence. To do good. Babe = we’re all babes. Every woman is beautiful.
Tell us about Pandia Health. What made you want to start it?
Pandia Health was started to make women’s lives better. Pandia is the greek goddess of healing, moon, light. I made up the definition, it was fate! Pan is “every”, dia is “day”. We got you covered every day. Set it and forget it and let Pandia Health worry, so you don’t have to.
I was giving a talk to a bunch of doctors and kept getting asked, “why don’t women take their birth control?” One of the top reasons: they didn’t have it in their hands. They didn’t have time to run to the pharmacy during a proscriptive 7 day interval. If you go on the Saturday or Sunday before you run out, that’s too early. That’s 8-9 days. The insurance will only pay if you come back Monday. Women have #BetterThingsToDo than to run to the pharmacy each month.
Women shouldn’t have to suffer “pill anxiety”- the stress or fear of running out of birth control and having to run to the pharmacy each month. Get #PandiaPeaceOfMind.
I know that some birth control-by-mail companies have run into insurance problems. Have you experienced any legal or insurance issues?
So the beautiful thing is that we are a medical group and a pharmacy. So we are targeted at birth control, but we can do it all. We’re not the birth control company, we are Pandia Health. And our bigger vision is to be the brand that women trust with their health, starting with birth control, but growing with them for their whole uterine, vaginal life. So they’re not going to shut down a doctor’s office, they’re not going to shut down a pharmacy, whereas if we were just birth control, then they could maybe come after us in that situation.
The main kind of limitation is just simply telemedicine. Telemedicine is still kind of the wild, wild west, and different states have different rules. Some of them allow what we do, which is asynchronous telemedicine, but 17 states still don’t allow what we do.
What is asynchronous telemedicine, and what are the benefits?
Asynchronous is, you know, not real time. You just fill out a questionnaire, give us a blood pressure, give us a selfie, and a government ID to prove you are who you are.
Research has shown people are more likely to disclose information on a questionnaire then if I’m looking at you and saying, “How many sexual partners have you had? When was the last time you had sex?” With just a questionnaire, there’s no judgment, I’m just collecting information. And that is really the way medicine should be is no judgment, collecting information.
Why is it important for women to be able to access birth control by mail?
Pandia Health is about care, convenience, and confidentiality. We calculate women spend 10 weeks of their lives, going to the pharmacy, waiting for the drug and coming back home… #betterthingstodo. Birth control should just be delivered straight to you door.
I believe that birth control should be over the counter. And we’re making it even better than over the counter… it just comes in the mail. So it’s about making sure no one runs out of birth control.
It’s about making women’s lives better, and decreasing what I call pill anxiety. So it’s about care, convenience, confidentiality, preventing unplanned pregnancy, dignity, privacy – it’s, I think, it’s just so critical. And there are things we can do on the policy level, which is like allowing a woman to get a year’s supply at a time, and not having an insurance limit.
Who can benefit from accessing birth control online?
Well, certainly any conservative community, any religious community. And then also just people who are using birth control, not for birth control. So we’re trying to expand the view of birth control, that it is a hormonal treatment, and that it can be used for polycystic ovarian syndrome. It can be used for endometriosis for bad, heavy, painful periods, dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, and there should be no stigma to it.
Can you talk about Pandia Health’s stance on skipping periods?
So I think it’s important that anybody with a uterus bleeding one week out of four knows that you can make #periodsoptional, that you don’t have to bleed every single month. Every time you bleed, you risk endometrial cancer, because you have that growth of the lining. And every time you pop out an egg, you risk ovarian cancer.
Then there’s a colorectal cancer component. 30% of women with their period have some GI effect via diarrhea or constipation. When you’re affecting the GI system, making it run faster or slower, it’s going to have a greater risk of cancer. And now you know, we have 60 plus years of data showing that it decreases all these cancers, there is a slight increased risk of breast cancer, but the decreased risk and all these other cancers outweighs the increased risk in breast cancer.
And then also, for me, the quality of life. The number one cause of anemia is menstruation. The number one cause of missed school and work under the age of 25 is period related pains. And so if we get rid of the period, we increase those of us with uteruses’ productivity.
For more on this, check out Dr. Yen’s Ted Talk.
What has been your proudest moment with Pandia Health?
I love the fact that we have educational content on YouTube, with 260,000 views with no promotion, simply answering for some on birth control. I love that we’re bringing cutting edge, evidence-based medicine and great care to anybody with a uterus on birth control, taking my expertise and the experience of others to decrease side effects in future users and current users.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think the key for aspiring entrepreneurs is make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. It’s gonna take longer than you think. Four to 10 years, possibly more, and choose your founders wisely because they’re going to be your family. Build your support network, build your network of people who are cheerleading for you. Build your network of people who will help you spread the word. Build your network of people to commiserate with other CEOs who are going through hardships, and build your support group of mentors, people who you can learn from and who you can seek advice, who are way ahead of you, or who are a couple steps ahead of you.
About The Author
A senior at the University of Missouri, Veronica Mohesky is studying Emerging Media Journalism. She is also a sexual health peer educator at her university. She works for local media outlets while in school, and you can find her other journalistic work at veronicamohesky.com. She will graduate in December 2020 and hopes to work for a nonprofit or public media outlet. Veronica loves to report on sexual health issues and believes it is important to have conversations to de-stigmatize sex, pleasure and STIs. You can find her on instagram at @veronicamohesky13.