Historically, men have been treated as the default patient in clinical practice and medical research, leaving women’s health seriously sidelined. From the delayed diagnosis of endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) to the pelvic mesh scandal, the real-world implications of the gender health gap are huge.
But although inequality still prevails, we’re finally moving closer to a world where women’s health is prioritised as much as men’s. In July 2022, the UK government published its first Women’s Health Strategy for England. This focuses on several key areas of women’s health including breast screening, fertility services and endometriosis care.
At last, we’re seeing more attention on women’s health in mainstream media. Channel 5’s documentary series Women’s Health: Breaking the Taboos, for instance, aimed to tackle stigma and encourage women to get help.
Inspiring women’s health companies and charities also continue to make a difference every day, fighting to challenge stereotypes and close the gender health gap.
Women’s health companies
Swiss medical technology company Ava launched its trailblazing fertility-tracking bracelet in 2016. It measures various parameters including temperature, pulse rate, heart rate variability (HRV)) and breathing rate to identify the five most fertile days of the menstrual cycle and help women manage their fertility.
Ava says: “Since the launch of ‘The Pill’ in the 1960s, there have been few major advancements in the field of women’s health. As a company, we’re working to fill that gap. Our clinical research team is made up of experts in the fields of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive endocrinology. Their mission is to expand the body of knowledge around female health and to apply those learnings to create innovative products that improve women’s lives.”
This cancer therapy start-up created the iTBra to help catch breast cancer in its early stages.
It features two biometric patches, consisting of eight sensors each and a data recording device, which can be slipped comfortably under your bra and record thermodynamic metabolic data from the skin surface.
Cyrcadia Asia says: “Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in their lifetime, yet mammography can miss 50% of breast cancers in some women resulting in millions of deaths that could have been prevented. The iTBra is a wearable that detects breast cancer, even at the earliest stages. The data from the device is transmitted to a database for analysis and results are sent to physicians within minutes. For women who have dense breast tissue, the iTBra has nearly double the accuracy of mammograms.”
OCON Healthcare develops innovative intrauterine (in the womb) drug delivery technology.
Its flagship product is the IUB Ballerine, a small, flexible and safe birth control device that requires no hormones and is effective for up to five years. Due to the special form and material, the IUB Ballerine minimises the risk of damage and irritation. It can also help to treat various health conditions, such as endometriosis, fibroids and unusually heavy periods.
OCON Healthcare says: “In addition to our flagship product, the IUB™ Ballerine®, OCON healthcare is developing an innovative pipeline of products utilizing the IUB™ frame for indications such as abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), heavy menstrual bleeding (HMS), myomas/fibroids, and infertility.”
Daye released the UK’s first clinically-validated CBD-infused tampons back in 2020 and is committed to reducing women’s pain, as well as cleaning up the manufacturing process of tampons. Daye tampons are produced in cleanrooms and sanitised with gamma-ray sterilisation, to reduce the risk of vaginal infections and toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
Daye says: “Daye was founded to raise the standards in female health by creating sustainable, category-defining products and services that bridge the gender gap in research and innovation. That’s why we’re starting by making tampons worthy of your body, needs and lifestyle.”
On a mission to revolutionise reproductive health, Hertility sells at-home hormone and fertility testing kits, created by an all-female team and backed up by evidence-based science.
Hertility says: “31% of women will suffer from a reproductive health issue at some point and through our research, we aim to reduce the time to diagnosis through advanced at-home testing and specialist gynaecological care. We tailor pathways to the individual’s reproductive goals, whether it be to explore their ovarian health and fertility options or overall hormonal health, such as confirming a PCOS diagnosis. Currently, we can diagnose 9 of the most common gynae pathologies which may lead to reduced fertility and signpost gynae cancers.”
Women’s health charities
The UK’s only charity dedicated to funding medical research on women’s reproductive and gynaecological health. Pioneering breakthroughs funded by WoW include the use of high, targeted doses of radiation to treat complex gynaecological cancers and the discovery of a potential non-surgical, non-hormonal cure for endometriosis.
This mental health charity supports under-served women in hospitals, prisons and in the community. It provides independent advocacy, emotional support and practical guidance at all stages of a woman’s journey through the mental health and criminal justice systems.
Wish says: “WISH is a user-led charity – meaning that women with lived experience are at the heart of every decision we make, every issue we campaign on, and every service we develop.”
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