Technology

Period tracking: Boon or bane for women?


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — Period tracking has come under fire in the last few years as privacy concerns and politics (especially in the US) collide over women’s issues.

The criticism was multifaceted, including questioning how transparent app creators were about what they did with women’s data and potential harm should the data be misused.

Is it worth making the effort to use technology to track your cycles despite the pitfalls? I spoke to Dr Azura Abas, a general practitioner at Klinik Medinna, for her opinions on tech and women’s health.

Period tracking, Dr Azura said, was a helpful tool for getting necessary information in treating her women patients.

”If a woman has issues concerning her menstrual cycle, whether it is irregular or is experiencing excessive bleeding, I would like to know for how long it has been a problem and when the irregularities started.”

Period trackers are able to let doctors get insight on past months’ cycles with information even available up to even 12 months ago, she said.

With the data, doctors are better able to diagnose conditions such as uterine fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome, or thyroid disorders.

Dr Azura said, “Some patients are not even aware that their period cycle is abnormal, so keeping a good habit of period tracking is very helpful.”

She frequently advises her patients to keep track of their cycles, especially if they plan to conceive.

“By knowing your period cycle, it can predict your date of ovulation which makes timing intercourse easier and more accurate. A good ovulation indicator is the basal body temperature.”

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Devices such as the Apple Watch Series 8, for instance, that can accurately detect body temperature and provide retrospective ovulation estimates are helpful for couples who are trying to conceive.

Prior to the existence of health apps, Dr Azura would ask her patients to keep a “health diary.” Information such as heart rate, blood pressure, cycles, would then be recorded therein.

“But now, the health apps available have a very good way of tracking and storing health data,” she said, noting that the devices often also tracked other metrics that included heart rates, blood oxygen levels, sleeping patterns, steps tracker and even detecting abnormal heart rhythm.

She said, “Even though they are not intended to make a diagnosis, it can always be a good source of information to help doctors diagnose and monitor their patients’ health.”

Dr Azura also shared her own experience with a patient who was experiencing frequent lightheadedness and fainting spells.

As part of his remedial health efforts he had gotten himself an Apple Watch that alerted him to abnormal heart rhythms, leading to his being referred to a heart specialist.

In her opinion, keeping records of women’s health issues was always a good thing.

”It’s helpful both for the patients themselves, and for doctors.” Storing data also made it easier to store and protect it as opposed to writing it down in a physical notebook that could be easily lost or damaged.

With health devices being so accessible and easy to use, Dr Azura reasoned: “So why not use this opportunity to store your health data and enjoy the convenience of being able to track and trace it anytime, and not face the risk of losing it?”

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