Turning personal female health data into personal and global insights
Despite the progress we've made towards gender equality, we have yet to eliminate the taboo surrounding menstruation in many cultures, which serves as a barrier to education, careers, and social equality for many women. Understanding more about what a period is and how it uniquely effects each woman can bring us closer to eliminating the stigma and clear up common misconceptions surrounding menstruation.
Period trackers, or apps that help monitor a woman's menstrual health are becoming more popular. Data about bloating, cramps, mood swings, back pain and more can be collected and analyzed to help women manage and understand their own body better. This sort of information can also be used for fertility and other overall health issues. We need to remove the taboo associated with menstruation, and harness the power data can provide about it to help the millions of women around the world dealing with it everyday.
Due to stigma and a lack of sexual education, menstruation knowledge remains limited leaving many girls with negative and ambivalent feelings and experiencing psycho-social stress, which also impacts their ability to learn (UN).
Period tracking is considered 'Real World Evidence' or healthcare information derived from multiple sources outside of typical clinical research settings, including electronic medical records (EMRs), claims and billing data, product and disease registries, and data gathered by personal devices and health applications that, in combination with traditional clinical examination, can reveal much information about the patient's health (FDA).
Data collected by period tracking, and why women track their periods in the first place include: (1)to be aware of how their body is doing, (2) to understand their body's reactions to different phases of their cycle, (3) to be prepared, (4) to become pregnant, and (5) inform conversations with healthcare providers (PMC).
Harnessing the knowledge these apps collect can help bring equalityand new opportunity to all women.
Given that menstruation is still overwhelming considered secret women's business, young girls are taught from a young age they have to manage it privately and discreetly (ABC Health and Wellbeing). This sort of secret handling of a nearly universal women's health issue perpetuates misogyny and encourages the shame associated with stereotypes many cultures still hold.
Menstruation Products Cost Money
As with most things, menstruation products (also called feminine hygiene products), such as pads, tampons, period panties, and menstrual cups cost money. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of people have a hard time affording or getting access to these necessary products. Low-income women, especially, are struck by this hardship.
According to Groundswell, “the average woman spends about $120 per year on pads and tampons and an additional $20 each year on over-the-counter medication to combat cramps and other period-related side effects. Women on average menstruate for 40 years (taking into account that some women have children), so each woman spends approximately $5,600 on her period over her lifetime.” That’s a lot of money that a lot of people don’t have regular access to throughout their lives. In fact, for one in eight women living below the poverty line in the United States, affording menstrual products is a problem (Germano).
Tampons and Pads are Necessities, Yet 30 States Still Tax Them
In some states, pixie sticks, lip balm and tattoos are tax free. In 30 states tampons and pads are not. The 'tampon tax' is an unfair and discriminatory economic burden. States should not profit (an estimated $150 million annually) from our periods (Period Equity).
Eliminating the Tampon Tax in all states
Ensuring women and girls have access to hygienic products globally.
Mainstreaming talk about menstruation to reduce the taboo in cultures where having your period bars you from education, work, and social acceptance.
Use Real World Health Data to understand how women are affected by their periods, to maximize comfort, productivity, and fertility if wanted.
Women's Health Care Systems
Feminine Hygiene Product Companies
Data Collection Agencies
Personal Infomatic Designers/Collectors
Health Care Workers
Women's Rights Advocates
The Fund for Gender Equality (FGE)
Global Fund for Women
Promote apps and tech that collects and analyzes women's health with their permission
CLUE created an app in 2014 that enabled women to track their menstrual cycles. The users input data relating to their cycle, the symptoms, mood and sexual activity. By doing so, the app can predict their next period and when the user will be most fertile. It also includes educational material by researchers to answer common questions on menstruation. It’s useful for reproductive predictions as well as helping women to better understand and manage their next period.
Educating women globally on what is and isn't normal about menstruation
Researchers analyzed the effects of dysmenorrhea — the clinical term for period pain — on academic performances in 21,573 young and adolescent girls. The results revealed that 20.1% of women reported absences from school or university due to period pain and 40.9% reported decreased performance or lowered concentration in classrooms.
Researchers also found that the widespread belief that painful periods are normal and commonly experienced by all teenage girls keeps young girls from seeking medical attention for their pain and can often worsen the situation (Global Citizen).
Clue was the number-one app in 28 countries in Apple's Health & Fitness category in 2014 and had over 1 million active users.
Real-world evidence: From activity to impact in healthcare decision making-https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticals-and-medical-products/our-insights/real-world-evidence-from-activity-to-impact-in-healthcare-decision-making
Examining Menstrual Tracking to Inform the Design of Personal Informatics Tools- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5432133/
Breaking the menstrual taboo: Why period stigma still holds women back-https://www.maggiegermano.com/blog/the-economics-of-menstruation/#:~:text=Menstruation%20Products%20Cost%20Money&text=Low%2Dincome%20women%2C%20especially%2C,other%20period%2Drelated%20side%20effects.
Period Equity- https://www.periodequity.org/issues