Journal / Phenomenal Women

We talk with Alice Pelton, founder and CEO of The Lowdown.

26 Apr, 2024

First tell us what The Lowdown ‘is’?


26 Apr, 2024

The Lowdown is a women’s health research platform, where you can share and compare reviews of contraception and HRT, or read and share experiences of perimenopause/menopause, fertility, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

We also have a library of blogs - all medically reviewed by our in-house experts - and have developed world-first tools to help women choose and use contraception, like our missed pill calculator, contraception recommender and comparison tools. Most recently, we developed a fertility tool with our doctors for people who are looking to start trying, or are just curious about their fertility.

Our approach is unique; we provide credible, scientific information alongside reviews from our community of women. We enable women to review and research their health conditions, symptoms and medications so they can make more informed decisions. We believe that listening to women’s experiences of healthcare is crucial to improving it.

Tell us a little bit about how your brilliant business was born as a platform. What is your backstory? What was the insight / consumer need that fuelled you? What moments, life experiences and perspectives got you to ‘here’?

Initially, The Lowdown was a contraception review platform. We liked to call ourselves ‘the Tripadvisor for contraception’ (I say ‘we’, it was just me at this point!) and this stuck for a while.

I started The Lowdown in 2019, after struggling for years with side effects of my contraception, namely mood swings. Once I stopped taking the pill it was like I’d had a personality transplant. I’d tried so many different types of pill and other methods of contraception but just couldn’t seem to find one that worked for me. Pair that with years of GP appointments trying to get an endometriosis diagnosis, it was a complete minefield.

Then in my thirties, I wanted to conceive. This was just another rollercoaster with even more ups and downs in my physical and mental health. After months of trying and having a miscarriage, I realised how isolating and almost taboo this whole stage of life can be, and I didn’t want other women to feel like that’s the normal experience trying to conceive. It’s a time in your life where you need quite a bit of support as there can be so much shame attached to it.

The foundation of The Lowdown is based on solving these problems: lack of data and information, getting expert advice in a 10 minute time frame is hard, and accessing medications and care is also more difficult than it needs to be a lot of the time.

As The Lowdown has grown, it’s become something that I want women to be able to use and come back to throughout their life, from their first period to their last. Contraception, women’s health conditions, fertility and menopause often overlap and can be impacted or treated by the other, so it made sense to expand our offering to help as many people as possible! There’s still more to come.

You’ve recently expanded your offering to address menopause too. What drove this evolution of The Lowdown? What are you hoping it will offer females in midlife?

Menopause is huge in women’s health right now, but we saw that perimenopause — the time in your life leading up to menopause, where your hormones are all over the place — wasn’t really getting much airtime. If you look on any stock photo site and type in menopause you’ll find white haired women (who are also all white), holding fans to their faces for their hot flushes.

We actually spoke to multiple women for our research who said they were surprised to get menopausal symptoms in their 40s. Many also didn’t realise so many symptoms they experienced were also due to perimenopause, or realised later on and wished they’d had that information available, or discussed with them by their doctor.

There isn’t widespread discussion of disordered sleeping, mental exhaustion, forgetfulness, depression and anxiety, and digestive issues to name just a few symptoms.

When you seek help from your GP for menopause you often have to do your own research on different treatments, and what else you can do to help. So that’s why we also launched HRT reviews, it seemed like a natural step for us as it can be very similar to choosing the right contraceptive for you. We’re not pushing HRT over other treatments, we believe you should have a right to choose what route you take to manage your symptoms. Not everyone will want, or be able to use HRT, but for those that do it can take a while to find the right method and dose that you’re comfortable with, and it helps to see what others have experienced using it, alongside the medical information you need.

We want to help women feel prepared for this life stage as early as possible, which will in turn help them manage their symptoms better when they do go through perimenopause. It’s so misunderstood, we weren’t taught about it at school.

We’ll all go through this life stage, so why does no one really prepare us for it?

Some women we spoke to also said they’d like to share it with their family to help them understand what they’re going through.

What will success look like for The Lowdown? And what does it look like for you personally?

Our mission to put women’s voices at the centre of healthcare research and development. So success is our insights and community driving forward innovation; we do that by working with partners to share what we’re learning, and helping to advertise and recruit women into clinical trials and studies.

For me, success is enjoying running the company, learning a lot and getting to hire and enjoy working with a fantastic team every day. I’m here for the journey, not the destination.

Why is it important to offer consumers this kind of content? What is the risk if we don’t have access to it?

Everyone should feel confident that they can make informed decisions about their health without needing a medical degree. We want people to be able to advocate for themselves when they go to their GP asking for contraception, or trying to get on the path to a diagnosis, or just looking for more information about different treatments that might work for whatever they’re going through. People need a central place to do their research, rather than scrolling through Google possibly getting less than credible, or misleading information.

Misinformation is rife, especially on social media, which is why we also do a lot of work on these platforms to not only debunk things when they go viral, but to explain new research and studies in a way that’s easy to understand, and doesn’t scaremonger.

There’s so little research into women’s health, we were only included in medical trials in the 1990s, and even now there’s lots of guidance that isn’t relevant to women across medications and things like heart conditions. Because we’re collecting insights on lived experiences, we’re able to push for further research by showing that there are patterns and symptoms that need to be explored further.

We’re delighted to be partnering with you. How do you select the brands you work with? And what made MPowder a natural fit for you?

When we launched our independent product reviews on The Lowdown, we always said we wanted women to be able to cut through the noise of social media ads, Google shopping suggestions, and find to-the-point information about what’s good (or bad) about a product, and what science there is to back it up. Our Medical Director Dr Fran reviews all the brands we have on the site to make sure the research is credible.

We not only wanted to platform a diverse range of products that could help women manage their health symptoms, it was also important that we put the spotlight on smaller, female-founded brands too.

MPowder ticks all the boxes here. We loved your unique approach to menopause products (of which there are lots on the market that are frankly, a marketing ploy), and your high-quality ingredients that are safe to use alongside HRT. We’ve seen that mood symptoms are among the most commonly reported in our new perimenopause experiences, which is why we were so keen to work with you to gather more reviews for Mood-Food.

Ultimately, our messaging is so aligned. We’re both frustrated at the lack of data, are driven to fill the gender health gap and take a balanced approach to menopause — whether you prefer CBT or HRT (or both, or neither), work with your body and explore what works for you!

As a female entrepreneur you’re a rarity! What reflections / learnings can you share on your journey to date - from the category you’re effectively creating, to the investment landscape you’ve navigated, to the way you’re juggling motherhood (congratulations!) too?

As well as having a triple whammy of reproductive health dilemmas (to put it lightly) that made me want to create and expand The Lowdown, I’m pretty persistent, driven, and fuelled by frustration - when I see something that pisses me off, I want to change it!

Fundraising is super hard. We’ve now raised three rounds of institutional capital, and each raise has been pretty gruelling. The minute the money is in the bank there’s this strange anti climax, and then you get to start building the company again, which is fun. I always have this strange burn out about 6-8 weeks after a fundraise, and I think over time you learn how to manage these ebbs and flows.

On motherhood, I’ve actually started a Substack newsletter all about how I’m juggling work as a female founder of a startup, and sharing what I’ve learned over the past year, and what I wish someone had told me when I was going through that stage of my life. It sounds niche considering my job, but I do think there’s something in there for everyone!

And what do you wish your younger self had known about: Life, Love, Health and Work

Life: Just happens whilst you’re waiting for it to

Love: Real love will come to you, just wait until you are 25

Health: Stop taking Microgynon

Work: In your early career it’s all about finding out what you enjoy and are good at. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

Finally, where can people go to find out more about the work of The Lowdown? And, critically, how can they further support you on your mission?

I would love anyone who checks out The Lowdown to leave a review or experience of their own, and share with anyone who you think would benefit from reading our website. We’re trying to gather as many insights as possible so we can push for further research!

You can also subscribe to our newsletter - we send twice a month, one with the latest news and research in women’s health, including our own findings, and one that’s focused on women’s health products, debunking misconceptions and helping people know what products are legit

Find us on Instagram and TikTok @get.the.lowdown, where we’re usually discussing new research, demo-ing contraceptives and filming ourselves going to medical procedures because everything is content.

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