March 2, 2023
Preliminary findings from the Apple Women’s Health Study help advance the conversation and science around menstrual cycles
Get ahead of your menstrual health with your iPhone and Apple Watch
Ahead of International Women’s Day, new preliminary findings from the Apple Women’s Health Study underscore the importance of paying attention to menstrual cycles and their relationship to overall health.
Many physicians consider the menstrual cycle to be a vital sign, but this area of health is under-researched. The Apple Women’s Health Study is a first-of-its-kind research study conducted with the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that aims to advance understanding of menstrual cycles and how they relate to various health conditions such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) Infertility and the postmenopausal transition. The study is significant in its scope and scale because it invites anyone who has ever menstruated across the United States to contribute to this research simply by using their iPhone.
New preliminary results
Harvard Chan School researchers used survey data from the Apple Women’s Health Study to advance scientific understanding about the relationship between persistently abnormal periods, PCOS, endometrial hyperplasia and cancer. Looking at a preliminary analytical cohort of more than 50,000 study participants, the study team found:
- 12 percent of the participants reported a Polycystic ovary syndrome personify. The participants with PCOS had more than four times Risk of endometrial hyperplasia (precancerous of the uterus) and more 2.5 times risk of uterine cancer.
- 5.7 percent of participants reported that their courses take Five years or more to reach regularity of the cycle after the first period. The participants in that group were more than twice The risk of endometrial hyperplasia and more 3.5 times The risk of uterine cancer, compared to those who reported having their cycles, took less than a year to reach regularity.
These updates are the first step to helping people understand risk factors for these diseases, and to encourage people to have conversations with their healthcare providers about irregular periods earlier.
“More awareness of menstrual physiology and the impact of menstrual irregularities and PCOS on uterine health is needed,” said Dr. Shruthi Mahalingayah, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Reproduction and Women’s Health at Harvard Chan College. healthy study. “This analysis highlights the importance of talking to a healthcare provider when you are experiencing persistent changes in your menstrual cycle that extend over several months. Over time, we hope our research will lead to new strategies for reducing disease risk and improving health across the lifespan.”
The study team will conduct further analyzes on this raw data for scientific publication.
Previous temporary updates
The Apple Women’s Health Study team previously shared a number of other interim research updates that highlight how large-scale longitudinal research on the menstrual cycle can help advance science on the topic.
- The research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, focuses on: cycle deviations, such as irregular or long periods, which can be a sign of underlying conditions including PCOS, fibroids, malignancy, or infection. The study found that cycle deviations were found in 16.4% of the study population. Black participants had a 33 percent higher prevalence of infrequent periods compared to white and non-Hispanic participants, while Asian participants had a higher prevalence of infrequent periods.
- Explain how common it is PMS symptoms The researchers found that the most frequently tracked symptoms were abdominal cramps, bloating, and fatigue, all of which were experienced by more than 60 percent of the participants who recorded symptoms. More than half of the participants who recorded symptoms reported acne and headaches. Some of the lesser-known symptoms, such as diarrhea and sleep changes, were also tracked by 37 percent of the participants who recorded symptoms.
- After analyzing more than 125,000 menstrual cycles, the researchers found that the participants had slightly longer menstrual cycles than the cycles they received. COVID-19 VaccineHowever, participants’ cycles usually returned to their previous vaccination periods after getting the vaccine.
The Apple Women’s Health Study invites anyone across the United States who has ever menstruated to contribute to the scientific research by signing up through the Apple Research app. The study enables participants to share their cycle tracking data, along with other health data from their iPhone and Apple Watch if they have one. Participants can also provide a more accurate set of information about their personal and family history and lifestyle through episodic surveys. The application of research helps the study reach individuals across different stages in their lives, different races, and across the United States. Participants control the types of data shared with the study, being transparent about how the data is used for the purposes of the study.
Cycle tracking on iPhone and Apple Watch
Cycle tracking is available in the Health app on iPhone or the Cycle Tracking app on Apple Watch, allowing users to track their menstrual cycle with details like symptoms or ovulation test results. Cycle tracking uses information users have logged for previous periods and cycle length, as well as heart rate data from Apple Watch, to provide period and fertility predictions. Users can turn on notifications to let them know when their next period or fertile period is approaching.
With iOS 16 and watchOS 9, cycle tracking can inform users if their recorded cycle history from the previous six months shows a pattern of irregular periods, infrequent periods, prolonged periods, or persistent spotting. It is important to know when these patterns occur, as they may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Users can also learn about Cycle Deviation detected, and export their last 12 months of cycle history as a PDF to share with their provider.
In addition, new temperature sensing capabilities on Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra allow users to receive retrospective ovulation estimates. The new sensors collect nighttime wrist temperature data that can be used to estimate the likely day after ovulation occurs and improve menstrual cycle predictions. Knowing when ovulation occurs can help with family planning, and users can see these estimates in the Health app.
Privacy is central to the design and development of all Apple features. When a user’s iPhone is locked with a passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID, all of their health and fitness data other than the Medical ID is encrypted in the Health app. Any health data backed up to iCloud is encrypted in transit and on Apple servers. When using iOS and watchOS with the default two-factor authentication and passcode, Health app data synced to iCloud is end-to-end encrypted, meaning Apple doesn’t have the key to decrypt the data and so can’t read it.
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