Chasm Conversations

Leaders in Women’s Health with Judith Nowlin, CEO of Nest Collaborative

May 8, 2024

Women’s Health Month is a time to recognize the innovation and progress being made in women’s healthcare. As a part of our ongoing Chasm Conversations series, and in honor of the momentum in this industry, we connected with Judith Nowlin, CEO of Nest Collaborative, to discuss the inspiration behind her career and how her work at Nest Collaborative supports prenatal and postpartum women nationwide.

About Judith Nowlin

Judith Nowlin is a FemTech pioneer with an impressive 20-year career advancing maternal child health. With boots-on-the-ground experience as a childbirth educator and doula, she saw an opportunity to positively impact clinical outcomes by opening access to care via mobile health technologies. In 2008, she founded iBirth, a groundbreaking B2B patient care companion app tailored for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. She built the company from inception to acquisition by Babyscripts, the market-leading remote patient monitoring platform for maternal health.

Her executive journey is characterized by an unwavering commitment to improving maternal-child health and revolutionizing the way we approach care during this pivotal life stage. Nowlin is now leading the next wave of impact in maternal healthcare in her role as CEO of Nest Collaborative, the premier virtual lactation support platform offering virtual breastfeeding consultations 365 days per year.

What inspired you to pursue a career in women's healthcare?

My first memory related to women’s health was when I was a very young girl, about the age of five. My father brought home a vintage anatomy book from his job at a publishing company called, Pregnancy in Anatomical Transparencies. For a reason still unknown to me, my parents kept the book sitting out on the coffee table. I remember time standing still as my curious little self flipped through the cellophane pages revealing layers of development of the growing fetus, involution of the uterus post-birth, and the lactating breast. I was in absolute awe of how profound the female body is. Fast forward 20 years when I experienced the transformative power of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding for myself and knew that advancing wellness in women’s health was the career path for me.

“Fast forward 20 years when I experienced the transformative power of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding for myself and knew that advancing wellness in women’s health was the career path for me.”

JUDITH NOWLIN, CEO OF NEST COLLABORATIVE

How does Nest Collaborative support women’s health?

Nest Collaborative goes beyond the status quo by providing acute and preventive care as well as comprehensive education for both prenatal and postpartum parents. Addressing the stark disparity in IBCLC coverage where the U.S. has just over half the total clinicians needed to meet the needs of 3.6 million newborns annually, Nest Collaborative is the solution, providing timely access to evidence-based care. Our services are reimbursed by over 200 insurance plans, including most national payers. At Nest Collaborative we stand out in bridging the gap between parents and expert lactation support nationwide.

What strategies or initiatives do you implement to enhance outcomes in women's healthcare?

Many people are surprised to learn that breastfeeding and timely breastfeeding support improves maternal and infant health outcomes in significant ways, both short-term and long-term. Children who are breastfed have lower risk of childhood infections, asthma, obesity, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, childhood leukemia, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), whereas parents who breastfeed have lower risk of ovarian cancer, certain breast cancers, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Despite well-established risks associated with not breastfeeding and evidence-based recommendations from ACOG, AAP, WHO, and the US Surgeon General, few parents meet professional recommendations or their own infant feeding goals. The U.S. healthcare system’s significant gap in postpartum care not only exacerbates existing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality but also contributes to a lack of access and affordability for lactation support. 

The first six weeks postpartum is the most common period in which nearly one-half of all pregnancy-related deaths occur and is a vital period in preventing early breastfeeding cessation and associated morbidity. The current maternity care model is designed with no official touchpoints between discharge and the six-week postpartum visit. Discharge instructions following birth are often vague and commonly do not address breastfeeding and lactation. 

Nest Collaborative’s proprietary preventive lactation care model is designed to fill this gap in the immediate postpartum period and beyond. Our most recent research study shows that Nest patients’ rate of breastfeeding at six months is one and a half times that of the national average. Additionally, our lactation consultants perform critical screenings such as perinatal mental health, intimate partner violence, and infant safe sleep screening. Video-enabled visits allow our highly trained International Board Certified Lactation Consultants to observe and reassure parents when things are normal, assess and intervene when things are abnormal or off-track, and educate and empower at every visit. In addition to Nest’s skilled lactation support, Nest patients benefit from timely referral to additional support for everything that may be outside of the IBCLC scope of practice.

What steps does your organization take to address disparities in access to women's healthcare services?

One of the main barriers to breastfeeding is the lack of access to skilled lactation care. Expanding this access is not only critical to women’s health at large, but also to pediatric and whole population health as skilled lactation services increase breastfeeding rates and reduce maternal and infant morbidity and mortality related to not breastfeeding. 

Nest’s lactation telehealth model, which utilizes care providers who are the gold standard in lactation support (IBCLCs), a proprietary preventive care model, and systematic use of perinatal screenings, bridges a gap in access to lactation care and access to postpartum care in general, especially in rural areas. Nest provides video-enabled services 365 days a year for on-demand lactation support. In addition, Nest’s unwavering advocacy for ACA-mandated reimbursement of lactation services enables even those families who have geographically feasible access to care to receive cost-effective care through their private insurance or Medicaid.

What words of hope or pieces of advice would you share with women who may be struggling to receive the care they need?

Advocate for yourself. Talk about what you need, and then keep talking about it. If you are not in a position to advocate for yourself, focus your energy on aligning with people who will advocate with you and for you. Most specifically, be vocal with your insurance provider or employee benefits administrator about the gaps in care you are experiencing. Many of the care solutions and services are out there waiting to be utilized, however, matching the right services to the right patients at the right time begins with the services being covered and reimbursed at a fair rate. Patient voices can go a long way in getting essential care covered.

“Advocate for yourself. Talk about what you need, and then keep talking about it. If you are not in a position to advocate for yourself, focus your energy on aligning with people who will advocate with you and for you.”

JUDITH NOWLIN, CEO OF NEST COLLABORATIVE

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Judith Nowlin
CEO, Nest Collaborative

Judith Nowlin

CEO, Nest Collaborative

Judith Nowlin is a FemTech pioneer with an impressive 20-year career advancing maternal child health. With boots-on-the-ground experience as a childbirth educator and doula, she saw an opportunity to positively impact clinical outcomes by opening access to care via mobile health technologies. In 2008, she founded iBirth, a groundbreaking B2B patient care companion app tailored for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and built the company from inception to acquisition by Babyscripts, the market-leading remote patient monitoring platform for maternal health.

Her executive journey is characterized by an unwavering commitment to improving maternal child health and revolutionizing the way we approach care during this pivotal life stage. Nowlin is now leading the next wave of impact in maternal healthcare in her role as CEO of Nest Collaborative.

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