Even though there have been fantastic advances in science, medicine, and technology around fertility, pregnancy, and birth, the support for new parents once they leave the hospital, and if/when they return to work, is minimal. The political move toward more parental leave is important, but it’s not enough, considering that only 12% of private sector workers have access to paid leave and 25% of new mothers return to work just two weeks after giving birth.

Largely because of the lack of workplace support, more than 40% of women will leave the workforce within one year of their first baby being born. This means that ~1.6 million women will decide not to return to their jobs. And companies will spend between 20–30% of that employee’s salary to hire a replacement. This is a costly reality.

At LUCY, we’re reimagining care for today’s expecting parents (mothers and fathers) and I’m excited to announce that we have closed our seed round to achieve this vision. We raised $2.25M co-led by Felicis Ventures and Forerunner Ventures, and believe that they are exactly the right partners to help us scale our solution. Over the next year, we’ll be expanding our team to work with a growing number of Bay Area employers to help them retain more female employees, save on healthcare costs, and better support families.

Photo: Jim Block

I am Shannon Spanhake, CEO and founder of LUCY. Together with my co-founder, Dr. Chitra Akileswaran, Chief Medical Officer and a practicing OB/GYN, we started LUCY because we believe that women (and therefore their families) are continually let down by federal and workplace policies that don’t go far enough to support women’s health or workplace equality. We are building a future where women are given the support they need to pursue both career and family.

Our mission is to help companies support their employees during the transition to parenthood. Doing so drives up retention and ensures ROI.

We want moms and dads to be able to grow the careers they love and love the families they grow.

What We Offer

Today, as more women and their families move away from the traditional support system of multigenerational communities, a growing network of perinatal experts has sprung up to fill this gap. At LUCY, we’re mobilizing this workforce by building technology that helps expecting and new employees get prenatal and postpartum support from the experts trained to deliver it.

We use this technology to get to know each family’s needs, preferences, and basic health information, which we then turn into a recommended session plan that is unique to each user. Our sessions span pregnancy through a baby’s first year, covering topics like newborn care, parent coaching, lactation support, mental health, financial planning, childhood development, sleep, career coaching and more. Sessions occur 1:1, in-person, in-home, or virtually. Additionally, expecting employees have 24/7 access to their LUCY care team.

We currently work with Bay Area tech companies like Slack, Reddit, Planet Labs, and others who have realized that their employees’ needs are not being met, even though they have generous parental leave policies in place. We’ve also gotten interest from large enterprises in retail and finance industries that typically haven’t been as quick to offer parental support.

“We offer 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave for moms and dads, but as a mom of two myself, I know that parental leave doesn’t solve the whole problem,” said Cara Allamano, VP of People at Planet Labs. “We also have to provide interim support as people transition to parenthood and then back to the office.”

How the Status Quo Fails Parents

Outside of scheduled doctor visits and the few days (if you’re lucky) insurance will cover to allow you to recover from labor in the hospital, new parents receive very little, if any, other care:

  • No structured support for lactation beyond initial guidance at the birth hospital
  • No support for decisions around work/life balance, returning to work, and breastfeeding while working
  • No coordination of care to meet all of a family’s needs
  • No instruction or guidance around parenting and child development apart from short pediatric visits
  • No attention or special guidance for the co-parent
  • No help with months of sleep deprivation

In addition to these costs and burdens on new families, the result of an unsupported parenting journey is a huge loss for the companies they work for.

The Cost of Parental Dropoff for Companies

The current annual pregnancy rate for women of childbearing age in the U.S. is just 9.9%, which means that one of the smallest groups within an employee base may be one of the most costly.

In addition to the high cost of attrition from parents leaving the workforce, we’ve learned that a self-insured employer’s highest health spend is often attributed to maternity and newborn care. Almost always, employer spending on pregnancy and newborn care is within the top five, if not the top three costliest health claims. And in companies with millennial-aged employees, it’s not uncommon for pregnancy and newborn care to take the #1 spot because they are starting families.

The majority of the American workforce right now are millennials, the group responsible for 90% of the babies born compared to 50% a decade ago.

Supporting the Transition to Parenthood Yields ROI Quickly

The National Business Group on Health released a report titled, The Business Case for Promoting Healthy Pregnancy,” featuring a case study on AOL’s WellBaby program, which was an effort to invest in reducing the company’s pregnancy and neonatal claims by offering women better support from preconception through the postpartum period. They found:

Clearly, investing in care during this time can lead to real savings, but very few of the practitioners who provide prenatal and postpartum care are integrated into the medical system and paid parental leave doesn’t provide the level of support documented to reduce pregnancy-related health claims. LUCY does.

Using the numbers above as a benchmark, a company with 5,000 employees will have ~200+ expecting parents in a year. If they offer LUCY to those expecting parents, they could reduce the cost of expensive health claims by up to $4.2 million. LUCY is not an expense, it’s an investment that comes with a return.

How We Help

In the past few months, we’ve helped more than 100 parents welcome a new baby into their lives and design a successful work/life balance for their families. To date, employees love LUCY: we see 91% enrollment, 95% utilization, and 100% of our moms and dads who intended to return to work, went back. This includes those who faced a challenging start to new parenthood with issues ranging from premature delivery, to postpartum depression, relationship challenges, and nursing difficulties, to name a few.

We prepare parents for this major life transition. From birth prep, to co-parenting coaching, to newborn care, to financial planning, to back-to-work counseling, we provide parents with the tools they need to feel empowered and confident throughout this milestone moment.

We prioritize breastfeeding. One of the cornerstones of our program is providing immediate, post-birth nursing help without the mom needing to think about, or arrange for, this care. If new moms could successfully nurse for at least 6 months, experts estimate it would total $13 billion in healthcare savings.

We let parents rest. LUCY provides sleep consultations and sleep training help to reduce the number of sleepless nights experienced by both parents.

We support co-parents. Supportive partners who are able to take an active role in their babies’ lives early on are much more likely to be engaged parents as their child grows. LUCY provides resources in the form of parenting coaching, newborn preparation, childhood development and work/life balance coaching to ensure that all parents have the tools to be successful from day one.

To date, there’s been no coordinated support like this for parents outside of standard OB/GYN and pediatric office visits. At LUCY, we’re changing that by partnering with CEOs, HR, and Benefits leaders at the forefront of companies reimagining what care for working parents looks like.

It’s time for us all to lean in.


If you are a company that cares about retaining women and better supporting families, we’d love to chat - reach out to me directly at shannonspanhake@startwithlucy.com

If you are an employee who would like your company to offer this type of benefit for yourself and your colleagues, also feel free to reach out to me directly at shannonspanhake@startwithlucy.com.

If you are an engineer or sales superhero who would like to be part of an early stage team impacting one of the most important issues of today, reach out to careers@startwithlucy.com, we look forward to meeting you!