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Exclusive: FamilyWell raises $4.3M for postpartum mental health

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Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Postpartum mental health provider FamilyWell collected $4.3 million in seed funding, CEO Jessica Gaulton tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Postpartum depression is common but often under-looked in health care, so FamilyWell works directly with obstetrics clinics to offer its services to patients.

Zoom in: .406 Ventures led the round. GreyMatter Capital and Mother Ventures participated.

  • Funds will go toward hiring and expanding beyond New England.
  • The raise gives Boston-based FamilyWell 18-24 months of runway, per Gaulton, who declined to discuss Series A timing.

How it works: FamilyWell offers OB patients tech-enabled, coach- and therapist-driven mental health support from birth through one year postpartum.

  • Referred patients are diagnosed via a psychological intake with a licensed therapist. Patients diagnosed with mild-moderate anxiety or depression are routed to a coaching pathway.
  • Patients with more severe forms of the disorder are directed to the company's therapy and psychiatry services.
  • Roughly 75% of its FamilyWell's patients are on the coaching track, Gaulton says.
  • The company also tracks patient data including engagement levels and the number of sessions required to reach the clinical criteria for remission.

FamilyWell investor and .406 Ventures partner Payal Divakaran says the company's breadth is one of the factors that attracted them to invest.

  • "They can take you in and decide what pathway you should be on, so you don't have to turn anyone away," she says.

Flashback: A neonatologist and mother of two who lived with postpartum depression, Gaulton didn't get the idea to start FamilyWell until a peer clinician stopped to check in on her and asked if she was okay.

  • "That was really what I needed, that peer support to open the door to just even thinking about whether I was okay, thinking about myself first," Gaulton recalls.

By the numbers: Per CDC, 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression.

  • The rate of depression diagnoses at delivery is rising, growing seven times between 2000 and 2015, per a 2019 study.

1 fun thing: FamilyWell created its own perinatal mental health coach certification training program focused on CBT-based skills and other skills.

  • The virtual program encompasses 15 hours of lecture and 10 hours of mentorship.

State of play: Companies focused on perinatal mental health care are gaining traction in VC as more attention is paid to the high rates of depression and anxiety among recent parents.

  • Los Angeles-based Mavida Health last September closed a $1.5 million pre-seed round.
  • St. Petersburg-based LunaJoy, a mental telehealth startup focused on girls' and women's needs during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, recently closed a $2.4 million seed round.
  • San Francisco-based Aster, a pregnancy care and tracking platform, in January raised $2.4 million in pre-seed funding.

The bottom line: "New moms have a very unique set of needs and they need a unique group of providers with special training to meet those needs," Gaulton says.

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