High quality menopause care has the potential to significantly improve women’s lives. Fortunately, innovative technologies are beginning to arise in this area.
Importance of menopause care
During menopause, women may suffer up to 48 different symptoms including hot flushes, mood changes and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms impact women in all aspects of their lives. 63% of women going through menopause report that their working life has been negatively impacted; 41% find they are making more mistakes, 11% reject the opportunity for a promotion, and 25% take time off as sick leave because of menopause. More alarmingly, menopause can increase the risk of developing diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and dementia.
Despite this, menopause has been greatly under-researched. This is due to the healthcare sector historically overlooking women, in particular older women, and treating their health issues as taboo. As a result, menopause is not fully understood and inadequate menopause care exists.
The femtech industry is working to fix this. “Femtech”, short for “female technology”, refers to technologies specifically designed to support women’s health. Thanks to this industry, innovative solutions aiming to provide better care for women going through the menopause are beginning to emerge. These can be used, often alongside the more traditional hormone replacement therapies (HRT), to help improve women’s lives.
Particularly prominent are devices aiming to instantly alleviate hot flushes. Among these is Embr Wave, a bracelet which uses patented technology to cool a user’s wrist on demand. A hot flush is caused by the brain simply mistakenly perceiving that the body is overheating. Thus, as the skin is crucial in the brain’s perception of body temperature, a hot flush can be effectively countered by the Embr Wave bracelet cooling the temperature sensitive skin on the inner wrist. Embr Wave uses varying thermal stimulation which provides an enhanced cooling effect over steady state thermal stimulation and prevents adaptive desensitisation of the skin. Grace is another cooling bracelet currently under development. The Grace bracelet will be able to pre-empt a hot flush, cooling the wrist before the hot flush even begins. The pre-empting is done using sensors in the bracelet combined with an (as yet undisclosed) algorithm.
Become clothing provides another solution for tackling hot flushes. This patented clothing has four key effects: cooling the skin, evaporating sweat away, releasing heat back to the body, and reducing odour. Cooling of the skin is enabled by the large surface area of the clothing, produced by its knitted cross section, which allows for maximised heat transfer across its surface. Sweat is evaporated away by a fabric coating which allows the clothing to absorb water by capillary action, removing sweat from the skin and enabling its quick evaporation. After a hot flush, heat is released back to the body by a fabric coating which includes a phase change material that allows heat from a hot flush to be stored and subsequently released during the following chill. Odour is reduced by the antimicrobial finish which blocks bacteria from the skin. Different aspects of the clothing thus work together to alleviate hot flushes and their effects.
Another area of notable development is that of wearable symptom trackers. These trackers can provide users with data-driven treatment suggestions. Operating in this area is digital health company identifyHer which provides an app-activated sensor to be worn on a user’s chest to record the frequency and severity of menopause symptoms. Crucially, the data recorded by the sensor is objective data which removes the inaccuracy of user self-reporting. AI-driven technology is then used to suggest user-specific treatments and to examine the effectiveness of existing treatments based on the objective sensor data.
Online menopause clinics are an additional important resource. BiaCare is a UK-based online menopause clinic allowing women to participate in group consultations and to receive personalised treatments. Thus, women are able to fill in the knowledge gaps they have around menopause and to receive care more accessibly.
Room for further development
Evidently, exciting innovation is taking place in the menopause care sector. But considerable room for development remains. Although the femtech industry has shown rapid growth in recent years - the total global market for femtech reached $40 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $75 billion by 2025 - most of the industry focusses on pregnancy, nursing, and reproductive health. Only 6% of femtech companies concentrate on menopause care.
Women themselves are becoming much more vocal about the need for better menopause care with several high-profile celebrities speaking publicly about their menopause experiences. This is slowly eroding the stigma associated with menopause.
The financial value of the menopause care sector has also been made clear. A report by Female Founders Fund found the menopause market to represent a $600 billion opportunity10. Thus, with the value (both to women and to the economy) of menopause care better understood, we should look forward to many more innovative solutions emerging in this vital area in the future.
This blog was originally published in MedTech Innovation News.
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