5 femtech innovations to watch

By Rachel Gregory, Editorial Production Manager

At Thrive, femtech (that’s technology to do with women’s health) is one of our passions. So, it’s great to be able to share just some of the ways that tech has transformed the landscape of women’s health, this last year.

Here are a few of the top tech successes from 2022, which we predict will help to improve female health in the months and years to come.

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) screening targets ethnic inequalities in maternity care

Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement has developed new femtech that screens women better for potential complications, and combats bias. The AI screening tool works by comparing risk factors and data on a more bespoke basis. It’s far more advanced than the current checklist method, which hasn’t changed since the 1970s.

A study released in 2022, which followed 20,000 women over four years, revealed that the screening tool could help reduce rates of pregnancy loss in mums from minority ethnic backgrounds by as much as 60%. Right now, Black, Asian and mixed ethnicity women in the UK are more likely to die in the perinatal period than white women. They’re also more likely to lose their baby, become very ill while pregnant, and have a poor experience of healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth.

This screening tech is now being piloted at sites across the UK, which the Tommy’s team hopes will provide further insights and pave the way for it to be rolled out more widely.

  1. New Apple Watch features women’s health tracking

Among its many features and improved functionality, the Series 8 helps users to track their menstrual cycle. By tracking body temp changes during the month and logging the data, the watch can tell a woman when she’s at her most fertile, when her period is due, and a whole lot more. It also records menstrual cycle changes that could be cause for concern.

Granted, there are other tools and apps that can track ovulation or help with contraception, but this one stands out as a tracker of reproductive health. The point of this wearable is for its users to be healthy; the latest update is just one aspect of a rounded approach to wellness. It’s femtech going mainstream – a win for women’s health.

  1. Breast cancer self-check device wins major award

According to Breast Cancer Now, almost half of women in the UK do not check their breasts for signs of breast cancer. A fifth say they’re not sure what they should be looking for when they do.

Debra Babalola and Shefali Bohra devised the dotplot to support women who are unsure about how best to check. It combines a handheld device and an app. These map a user’s torso and guide them through at-home checks, using soundwaves to take readings, log the data and flag what’s not the norm. It can’t replace GP checks, but it can prompt women to seek help from a healthcare professional.

And it’s won the UK James Dyson Award, a competition that’s favoured by students and startups, moving it a step closer to being a nifty piece of healthtech we can all buy. One in five winners of the award go on to commercialise their product.

  1. First accurate female crash test dummy invented

Studies show that women are at higher risk of injury than men when they are involved in comparable car crashes. For example, whiplash is three times more likely to occur in women than it is in men. Experts such as Dr Astrid Linder, Research Director at Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, believe the lack of a crash test dummy that’s based on the female body, is a large factor.

So, in 2022, she led a team to develop the world’s first female crash test dummy. At 162cm (5ft 3ins) tall and weighing in at 62kg (9st 7lbs), it’s hoped it might replace the current ‘mini-man’ dummy that’s the size of a 12-year-old girl. Linder hopes her breakthrough will affect how cars are designed and tested in the future, making them safer for women.

It might not be femtech in the most obvious sense, but it’s a major innovation, and a win for women’s health.

  1. Menstrual support on prescription

Menstrual Cycle Support (MCS), a health technology company, is working with GPs to offer UK women prescribed support with their menstruation. It’s the world’s first non-clinical menstrual health service, and its aim is to help close the gender pain gap by improving knowledge about menstruation and the menopause. In turn, this should also boost women’s mental health.

The at-home digital health course is backed by NHS-approved research. It aims to boost ‘menstrual literacy’, by helping users with problem periods to understand their cycle and symptoms better. They’re prompted to keep a symptom diary and make small lifestyle changes. Plus, MCS can guide them when talking to healthcare professionals, aiming to speed up diagnoses of conditions such as endometriosis. Women can either self-refer or they can be referred by a doctor.

Their female founder, entrepreneur and menstrual activist Kate Shepherd Cohen, scooped an award at the 2021 International Social Prescribing Conference. She says, “I believe[…]that we should measure the greatness of society by how little menstrual suffering exists.”

So, there you have it – our pick of the femtech advances in the last year. We’re looking forward to seeing what 2023 has in store.

Rachel is Editorial Production Manager at Thrive. She is responsible for coordinating projects, as well as editing and delivering engaging health content.

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