Millie, a new kind of maternity clinic, “built by moms and care providers who’ve been there,” is reimagining the standard of maternity care in the United States. The brand today announces the closure of an oversubscribed and female-powered $4 million seed fundraising round, led by TMV Ventures & BBG Ventures with participation from Venn Growth Partners, Looking Glass Capital, Learn Capital, Hustle Fund, and other top-tier investors including Turner Novak, Michelle Kennedy of Peanut, and Tristan Walker of Walker & Company.
On September 26th, Millie will also open its premiere physical clinic next to the Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley, CA to kickstart the expansion of its broad-based services and repair a fragmented maternity care system nationwide. Millie is cofounded by Anu Sharma (Chief Executive Officer), Talia Borgo (Clinical Director), and Sarah Reynolds (Chief Technical Officer), with clinical leadership from Amy Kane (Medical Director and OB-GYN).
Recent findings from the Commonwealth Fund show there were 17 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in the U.S. — a staggering ratio more than double that of most other high-income countries. In addition, the U.S. also has high rates of maternal morbidity (severe injuries and near misses), c-section rates, preterm births, and perinatal anxiety and depression. A 2019 study found that annual maternal morbidity from conception through age five resulted in a projected cost of $32.3 billion. Improving these outcomes has been a key focus for Millie, and true to their mission of bringing humanity back to reproductive care, Sharma, Kane, and Borgo have been honored to provide input on the White House’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, an approach to combating maternal mortality, and working toward a future where the United States will be the “best country in the world to have a baby.”
In the U.S., most birthing people visit OB-GYNs, high-risk surgical specialists who focus mostly on medical interventions, and treatments, with less time for patient education and one-on-one care. Alternatively, midwives are trained to provide a wide range of services, including pregnancy management, childbirth support, and postpartum care. America currently has the lowest overall supply of midwives and OB-GYNs: 12 and 15 providers per 1,000 live births, compared to other countries with levels two to six times greater, making Millie’s standard of a full-spectrum OB-GYN/midwifery model a crucial revolution in maternal health.
The truth is that pregnancy is a profound experience – it transforms you physically, emotionally, and mentally, and shifts your identity, relationships, and life. But our current maternity care model is designed around a narrow clinical slice of the experience – via a handful of short, episodic visits 15-20 minutes long, culminating in childbirth with typically one visit six weeks postpartum. It is incomplete, reactive, and often over-medicalized. ”Those who have been through it know that most pregnancy happens between visits when nobody is watching, there is limited care postpartum when people are most vulnerable to risk, and very little support thereafter. The resulting statistics are the inevitable outcome,” starts her story Anu Sharma, Millie’s cofounder and CEO.
Sharma possesses more than 15 years of experience in healthcare innovation, having worked with some of the largest healthcare industry players on major strategy and operational issues, but her personal encounter with the inadequate U.S. maternity care system was a turning point. “I had endured an induction, over two days of labor, and an unplanned C-section with near-hemorrhage, and, while this was the definition of a high-risk delivery, I was sent home with ‘standard’ care instructions to see my OB-GYN in six weeks. That resulted in a near miss,” says Sharma.
Coming from a family of physicians and having worked in healthcare innovation for over 15 years, Sharma knew enough about her country’s healthcare system to expect a certain level of brokenness in her pregnancy care and birth experience. But barely 36 hours after being discharged home, she walked herself back into the ER on the verge of a stroke after having self-diagnosed postpartum preeclampsia. “I was drowning in my own body and I couldn’t breathe. A few tests later, they also discovered I had a more severe complication called Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, and Low Platelets (HELLP). I spoke with Talia, my midwife at the time, and asked her, ‘If you could provide care the way you know people need, what would that look like?’ Today, I’m proud to say that we’re providing that level of attentive care through Millie.”
Soon after, Sharma and Sarah Reynolds (the company’s CTO) met. They connected over their toddlers (who were born two weeks apart) and their mutual disappointment with the current “standard” of maternity care. They talked about the nerve-wracking 8+ week wait before the initial pregnancy confirmation appointment, the isolating lack of support we felt between the episodic 15-minute visits that make up pregnancy care, and the absurdity of going to expensive classes just to learn about the basics of childbirth, newborn care, and feeding (why was that not a core part of pregnancy care?). “We both felt wholly unprepared for our postpartum recovery needs, overwhelmed with our lives as new parents, and depleted emotionally,” admits Sharma.
This is why Millie is building a new model and restoring humanity to the experience — starting with complete, continuous, and compassionate care from pregnancy through postpartum, and setting the foundation for future-forward collaborative OB-midwifery care in the U.S. Why? Because the experience of countries like Canada, the U.K., France, and others has shown that it results in less intervention, better outcomes, and more patient satisfaction with their care.
“As moms and healthcare professionals, we know firsthand the incomplete, reactive, and often over-medicalized treatment in the U.S. that leaves mothers, birthing people, and their babies very vulnerable — creating some of the worst outcomes in the high-income world,” shares Talia Borgo, Millie’s Clinical Director. “Through our acceptance of most major insurance plans and an ecosystem of culturally competent care providers that span specialties, we are committed to removing as many barriers as we can and bringing humanity back to reproductive care.”
Millie offers a 360-degree care approach that guides people from 48 hours after a positive pregnancy test to one year postpartum with a collaborative, patient-centered team that supports individuals’ entire pregnancy journeys. While most birthing people are made to choose between an OB-GYN or a midwife, Millie pairs the patient with a caring force comprised of an OB-GYN, a midwife, and a doula, ensuring individuals are wholly supported through the physical, mental, emotional, and social changes experienced during pregnancy and parenthood. The Millie app and remote-monitoring tools make space for daily communication, continuous care, and early detection of complications, that collectively establish around-the-clock support. The aim is to offer patients comprehensive education on essential topics like managing their mental health during pregnancy, creating birth preferences, postpartum planning, newborn feeding and care, and navigating early parenthood.
“Unlike clinics with similar care models, our model is different in a few key ways – you don’t have to choose between the medical expertise of OB-GYN and the holistic, low-intervention approach of midwives —our care team has both. Additionally, care and monitoring continue between appointments — when most of the pregnancy actually happens, with mental health and postpartum care being core components of care, instead of barely discussed fragmented afterthoughts,” adds Sharma.
In the light of the recent Roe vs. Wade decision, Millie’s clinic will also provide abortion care to patients who need it as part of its services – right at opening this September. Its first clinic is coming to Berkeley, CA, and it is for anyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and plans to deliver their baby at Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley, CA. ”We also provide virtual care services nationally – appointments are available on our website.”
This all means that Millie will be one of the very first providers in the U.S. to offer a postpartum home visit. This visit ensures every mother and baby have proactive physical and emotional attention from a clinician – so that complications can be detected early, both doctors and patients can be sure recovery is going well, and the family has the strongest start possible with their newborn.
“I was born at Alta Bates, so it’s been a full-circle experience to work alongside Anu, Sarah, and Talia to build the foundation of future-shaping care right here in Berkeley,” adds Amy Kane, Medical Director at Millie and OB-GYN. “There is no doubt that Millie will be the blueprint for comprehensive maternity care nationwide. We are thrilled to provide patient-first services and make a special time in one’s life even more extraordinary.”
“Our care model is designed to improve the quality of care one patient at a time while also proving that a new standard of care is possible throughout the United States. We believe better maternity care is possible, and we are making it happen,” concludes Sharma.