It’s no secret that periods often come with a whole variety of other symptoms, but data around menstruation is lacking. Apple and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health are looking to change that by collaborating on the Apple Women’s Health Study, which is aimed at understanding more about periods in women across demographics and lifestyles.
This morning the organizations released a preliminary data analysis from the study, which was first announced in 2019, and included 10,000 participants. As part of the study participants were able to log period characteristics through surveys or the cycle-tracking feature on their iPhone or Apple Watch. The study also used sensor data from the devices. A total of 6,141 women tracked at least one menstrual symptom, MobiHealthNews has learned.
Abdominal cramps were the most common symptom, with 87% participants recording symptoms reporting this condition. Researchers found that over 60% of participants recording symptoms reported experiencing bloating and/or tiredness.
Fifty percent logged acne and headaches. The study also let participants record diarrhea and sleep changes, finding that 37% of women experienced these events.
Investigators also looked at symptoms across races. The preliminary results indicate that women of all races have similar symptom trends. For example, 85% of Black and Hispanic women, 82% of white women, and 81% of women of another race or ethnicity reported experiencing abdominal cramps.
WHY IT MATTERS
Historically, people with periods have been under-studied in medicine. The partners are pitching this study as a way to gain more insights into women’s health and conditions such as menopause, infertility and PCOS.
“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 faculty at Harvard Chan School, said in a statement.
“By building a robust generalizable 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.”
THE LARGER TREND
Over the last decade Apple has teamed up with various institutions to study various aspects of human health. Last week Apple and the University of Michigan (along with the World Health Organization) released preliminary data from the Apple Hearing Study, which was first announced in 2019. The study found that 25% of participants had daily noise exposure over WHO’s recommended limits.
The tech giant famously teamed up with Stanford University on the Apple Heart Study, which was focused on atrial fibrillation detection. In May the company revealed that it had enrolled 420,000 participants. However, during a HIMSS20 presentation last year, researchers noted that they struggled with engagement.
ON THE RECORD
“These findings take us a step further in validating and destigmatizing period symptoms,” Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of Health, said in a statement.
“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.”