March 10, 2021 11:35:11 am
Abdominal cramps, bloating, and tiredness: these were the commonly tracked symptoms reported by 60 percent of participants part of an Apple Women’s Health Study, which seeks to “destigmatise menstrual symptoms.” For generations, women have complained about suffering from these symptoms during their monthly cycles, and Apple’s study team at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health appears confirm the same.
The study is “based on a cohort of 10,000 participants and inclusive of varying ages and races across the US.” Participants are those who have signed up for the study on Apple’s Research app. The study states that women irrespective of age, ethnicity suffer from similar complaints during menstruation; complaints which are often not taken seriously.
Apple’s statement also notes that while menstrual cycles are an important window into women’s overall health, the topic is under-researched and studies are limited to smaller sizes. These fail to be representative of the broader population. Further, lack of “substantial scientific data,” means that women’s menstrual symptoms are usually dismissed or worse termed as “overreaction or oversensitivity.”
“Our study will help to achieve a more gender equal future, in which all people with menstrual cycles have access to the health services and menstrual products needed to feel safe and empowered,” Dr Michelle Williams, Dean of the Faculty at Harvard Chan School said. “By building a robust generalisable knowledge base, the Apple Women’s Health Study is helping us understand factors that make menstruation difficult and isolating for some people, in addition to elevating awareness of a monthly experience shared by women around the world.”
“These findings take us a step further in validating and destigmatising period symptoms,” Dr Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of Health said. “Harvard Chan researchers are leaders in the field on this critically important subject, and we couldn’t be more proud to support and help scale their efforts through the Research app.”
What the Apple Women’s Health Study shows
A preliminary analysis of data appears to “validate women’s experiences of a wide range of menstrual cycle symptoms, including some that are less commonly known or discussed.” Abdominal cramps, bloating, and tiredness are the most common ones.
More than half of the participants reported acne and headaches as symptoms as well. Other less widely recognised symptoms include diarrhoea and sleep changes and these were tracked by 37 percent of participants in the study, which is again not a small percentage by any means.
Initial analysis also suggests these symptom trends hold true across a wide range of demographics, including age, race, and geographic location. According to Apple, “participants control the data types shared with the study, with transparency into how the data will be used for the purposes of the study.”
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The research team will further investigate the preliminary data and submit a detailed analysis, including a breakdown of methods, for peer review and journal publication. The study aims to “advance the understanding of menstrual cycles and how they relate to various health conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, and menopausal transition.”
In order to participate in the study, subjects have to be based in the US and need to be at least 18 years old (at least 19 years old in Alabama and Nebraska and at least 21 years old in Puerto Rico) and must have menstruated at least once in their life. The study is conducted in partnership with Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health and the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
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