Breaking Women’s Health Taboos With Digital Disruption

Women Love Tech
on 30 October 2017

“Why didn’t anyone tell me this thing could happen?”

“I thought period pain was normal.”

“I never knew women’s health physios existed!”

These are the 3 most common phrases I’ve heard over the last 8 years working in women’s health and pelvic floor physiotherapy.

My story begins 15 years ago with my own pelvic pain, which, in 2010, got to a point where I was in debilitating chronic pain. I had seen dozens of medical and health professionals and no-one could give me any answers.

Finally, I stumbled upon a women’s health physiotherapist who suggested that I fit many of the symptoms of endometriosis, a condition that affects 1 in 10 women – severe period pain, chronic pelvic pain, irritable bowel, menstrual migraines, sciatica and overactive pelvic floor muscles.

Heba Shaheed discusses pelvic floor physio and why it’s so important

That propelled me into the world of women’s and pelvic health physiotherapy, which was where I found the answers to my pain. And over the years working in this area, I’ve discovered the problems are the same:

  1. A serious lack of education about women’s health issues and their solutions,
  2. A lack of access to high quality women’s healthcare,
  3. Enormous costs to the woman, and to the public and private healthcare systems.

After watching my sister suffer an obstetric anal sphincter injury and the devastating aftermath, I became even more invested in helping women prevent and overcome birth injury. I believe it is every woman’s right to receive preventative pelvic floor education, and contrary to popular belief, incontinence, prolapse and back pain after birth are not normal, and can be treated.

I began blogging on women’s health issues, and the response was overwhelming. I was now reaching women all across the globe. I was invited to write scripts on pelvic health for TED-Ed, with my first video reaching over 4 million views. And I started receiving invitations to speak on women’s health and wellness at conferences, online summits and community events.

When I fell pregnant, I resigned from my booked out Sydney CBD practice (to the despair of many of my amazing clients) and became a full-time entrepreneur. I co-founded The Pelvic Expert, an e-health platform that provides online women’s health programs that include pelvic floor education, therapeutic exercise videos, hormone-balancing nutrition, and self-care.

I was fortunate enough to land a spot in the HCF Catalyst accelerator after declaring my vision for women’s healthcare to Slingshot’s Karen Lawson and Renee Sargent at a CBA Women in Focus networking event. And interestingly I gave birth halfway through the accelerator (on International Women’s Day by an all-female team) and have been going strong since.

Breaking Women’s Health Taboos: Heba Shaheed’s joyous pregnancy

I haven’t let anything hold me back, not pregnancy, not motherhood, not diversity. I hope I can inspire all women, especially diverse women and Muslim women to step into their passion, build their businesses and strive to make an impact.

With technology at our fingertips, the world is our oyster. Yes, diversity does make things difficult, especially when you’re both culturally diverse and a woman. I acknowledge that intersectionality certainly does impact on my mission in some aspects. But putting myself out there has also reaped many rewards.

Despite bungling my first-ever Pitch, with the help of the HCF Catalyst accelerator I’ve ultra-refined my pitching skills, and along the way I’ve managed to win the UNSW Peter Farrell Cup, taking out First Prize of a cool $15K for The Pelvic Expert.

Heba Shaheed, HCF Catalyst event

One of the best things about being part of the HCF Catalyst accelerator was the ability to build a wonderful relationship with HCF and we are proud to be delivering a Trial of our signature Mother Nurture program to 200 HCF members. Mother Nurture is a 12-week women’s health online program aimed at helping mothers, new and long-time, overcome issues like incontinence, prolapse, back pain and abdominal separation. This HCF Trial, aimed at women who self-identify as suffering from bladder control problems,  is a crucial step towards scalability of our online programs.

I envision a world of fearless women, who’ve taken back their health and wellness, living lives free from pain and pelvic problems. The future is digital and with our overwhelming and busy lives, women can now receive expert women’s healthcare in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

My top 3 tips for budding female tech entrepreneurs:

  1. Get out of your comfort zone and attend networking events. A face-to-face conversation will give you an edge over written exchanges any day, even for introverts like me.
  2. Ask for help. There is so much support and community out there and all it takes is an email or social media message.
  3. Go lean. Get your product out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Validate your product and business model. And then refine your product because customer feedback is super important and they always have ideas you may not have considered.

Catalyst call to action:

HCF – Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund – launches round three of its Startup accelerator program, HCF Catalyst, designed to help entrepreneurs turn their health tech ideas into high impact businesses,  that will change the provision of health services now and in the future.

Applications for HCF Catalyst are open from 24 October to 24 November 2017.

Startups, Scaleups and entrepreneurs can apply for HCF Catalyst via the website at:

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