By Alison McGill
Too many of us don’t pay enough attention to our bodies, specifically what’s happening with our periods. Often when things are a little off with our cycle, we blame stress or hormone fluctuations. The truth is any changes in your menstruation cycle should be taken seriously as it could point to other far more serious occurrences with your health.
Though period health is considered by physicians to be a marker of over-all wellness, it is famously under-researched. Apple is looking to change the game with the Apple Women’s Health Study. This new intensive research study conducted with the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) looks to further the understanding of menstrual cycles and how they are related to various health issues including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility and the onset of menopause.
“More awareness on menstrual cycle physiology and the impact of irregular periods and PCOS on uterine health is needed,” said Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah, MS, Harvard Chan School’s assistant professor of Environmental Reproductive and Women’s Health and co-principal investigator of the Apple Women’s Health Study. “This analysis highlights the importance of talking to a healthcare provider when menstruators are experiencing persistent changes to their period spanning many months. Over time, we hope our research can lead to new strategies to reduce disease risk and improve health across the lifespan.”
Some key preliminary results of the ongoing Apple Women’s Health Study (to date more than 50,000 participants have used their iPhone and the Apple Research app to contribute data to this study) have revealed the following:
- A PCOS diagnosis was reported by 12 percent of participants. Those with reported PCOS had more than four timesthe risk of endometrial hyperplasia (precancer of the uterus) and more than 2.5 timesthe risk of uterine cancer.
- An average of 5.7 percent of participants reported their cycles taking five or more years to reach cycle regularity after their first period. Participants in that group had more than twice the risk of endometrial hyperplasia and more than 3.5 times the risk of uterine cancer, compared to those who reported their cycles took less than one year to reach regularity.
Apple’s findings clearly underscore the importance of keeping tabs on what’s happening with your period as an integral part of your healthcare. It is also committed to helping make the task an effortless one with its Cycle Tracking which can be found in the Health app on iPhone; and as its own standalone app on Apple Watch. Here you can input all the information about your periods—timing, symptoms, cycle lengths, and even ovulation test results. Cycle Tracking uses this data to offer period predictions, and even fertility window estimates if you are looking to conceive.
On the note of family planning and periods, the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra also have temperature-sensing technology which can gather wrist temperature data overnight. This data is used to approximate the likely day of ovulation after it has occurred and improve period predictions.
One more brilliant thing about Apple Cycle Tracking: you can take all the information you log to your healthcare provider by exporting it into a PDF. Thanks to Apple’s safety features, all Health data is encrypted to guarantee privacy. As we know, the more information you have the better when it comes to your health. Thanks to modern technology, taking care of you and your menstrual health has never been easier to do.