Tennis superstar and mother-of-one Serena Williams, who has spoken openly about experiencing life-threatening complications after welcoming her daughter Olympia, has invested in a digital platform for new mothers to help fill the critical care gap in postpartum care
Mahmee, which is dubbed a "bundle of support for your bundle" and is a data-driven maternal and infant health tech company, secured $3 million in funding from Williams' Serena Ventures and high profile businessman Mark Cuban to grow the service they say is the "glue that connects the care ecosystem and closes the gaps".
"In the maternity healthcare process, on the surface there are generally three or four people involved: the mother, the baby, and each of their physicians. What we don't see are the many other people helping them: nurses, lactation consultants, midwives, nutritionists, therapists, doulas, home health aids, social workers, and more," said Melissa Hanna, CEO and Co-Founder of Mahmee in a statement.
"And this industry is lacking the IT infrastructure needed to connect these professionals from different organisations to each other, and to follow and monitor patients across practices and health systems. This missing element creates gaps in care."
Ensuring mothers receive affordable health care and don't fall through the cracks during pregnancy and early motherhood, is something Williams, who is married to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, is passionate about after her daughter Olympia's birth left her lucky to be alive.
In an article penned for CNN last year, the 37-year-old described experiencing a pulmonary embolism, a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot.
"Because of my medical history with this problem, I live in fear of this situation. So, when I fell short of breath, I didn't wait a second to alert the nurses," she said.
What followed was a series of life-threatening complications.
"First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from travelling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed."
At the time, Williams added: "What if we lived in a world where every mother and newborn could receive affordable health care and thrive in life? That world is possible ... Every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. And you can help make this a reality."
Williams' investment in Mahmee marks what she calls a "critical" step forward in that direction.
"I am incredibly excited to invest and partner with Mahmee, a company that personifies my firm's investment philosophy," Williams, said in a statement.
"Given the bleak data surrounding maternal death and injury rates, I believe that it is absolutely critical right now to invest in solutions that help protect the lives of mums and babies. Mahmee's data-driven approach is the right solution to one of the most significant problems in the system: that of fragmented care."
According to their site, Mahmee is designed to deliver comprehensive prenatal and postnatal support. "Mums and babies are falling through the cracks of our fragmented healthcare system," they write. "Preventable issues are not being caught fast enough because patient data is siloed, making collaboration across specialities difficult."
Obstetricians, pediatricians, lactation consultants, childbirth educators, nutritionists, therapists, and other practitioners in maternity and pediatrics can all join the Mahmee Network, as well as new mums.
Basic packages are free, but there are various options up to AUD $285 a month which offer a range of resources including virtual consults, and access to online training courses on topics such as childbirth, breastfeeding, infant development, and more.
The company says Mahmee has already identified and escalated over 1,000 critical care issues, including sepsis, postpartum psychosis, and postnatal hemorrhaging. "In each case, Mahmee's care management team verifies rising clinical risk, escalates the issue to physicians' attention, and works with providers to facilitate a course of care; in some cases, a life-saving intervention," they note.
In an interview with Helm, co-founder Linda Hanna shared that Mahmee is also about "mothering the mother".
"It's actually the inspiration for our name: Mom-Me. Mahmee," Ms Hanna said. "It's about helping and supporting a woman and mothering her as she evolves into a mother. Our patriarchal society just expects a woman to give birth and automatically know what to do. But she needs to be cared for and attended to during that process."