Wondering if femtech has a place in natural and holistic health?
“I think femtech has created an outlet for individuals who are looking for an alternative approach or more direct control over their health care,” says Scott Chudnoff, MD, MSc, chair of the department of obstetrics-gynecology at Stamford Health in Connecticut. Indeed, many aspects of femtech are empowering, help facilitate natural approaches, and are more personalized to women’s specific needs. This is very much in line with holistic health.
“One of the big movements within femtech is to increase accessibility to things that women can use to understand their health and empower them to be more involved in their health care,” says Megan Fitzpatrick, MD, assistant professor of pathology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. For example, some women report using menstrual-tracking apps to learn more about their cycles and to better understand their body. That also better equips them to talk with their health care practitioners. It’s also empowering to be able to use things such as biofeedback technology to guide pelvic floor exercises for incontinence in the privacy of your home. Similarly, one company is working on a medical device for postmenopausal women to treat vaginal dryness at home and without hormones.
“A lot of femtech is based on natural biological processes, like measuring cervical fluid to assess fertility,” says Brittany Barreto, PhD, executive director and podcast host at FemTech Focus, a nonprofit group empowering the femtech industry. Femtech could potentially make natural approaches more doable and accurate. For example, one company has paired a fertility tracking app with a high-tech Kegel ball device to assess cervical fluid. “Instead of checking cervical fluid qualities with your fingers, this measures it precisely with technology,” says Barreto. Fitzpatrick says one company offers nutritional analysis of breast milk. Based on that, moms receive nutritional recommendations to improve the composition of their milk. There’s also a company that will freeze-dry your breast milk, so it’s available when and where you need it. Another femtech company helps women get to the root cause of hormonal and reproductive health issues via at-home testing and alternative medicine, including online naturopathic care. In addition, research suggests a smartphone app that guides you through self-acupressure could help relieve period pain. The app visually shows you where to apply pressure to specific points on your body for pain relief.
In many cases, women’s health care has been based on what works for men or approaches developed from a masculine mindset, says Barreto. Femtech turns that approach on its head. “Femtech drives innovators to learn about women’s biology at the molecular level, track it, and then modify it—often using natural approaches,” says Barreto. “When you make things specifically for women, they’re naturally better suited for women’s needs and lifestyle.” And when you use femtech, you may be contributing to advancements in women’s health care, including complementary and alternative approaches. “When women use femtech apps, they commonly agree to allow their data to be shared and accessed for research purposes,” says Chudnoff. “That could have huge implications for better directing treatments and helping a lot of women.” So, keep an open mind about femtech. Use it where it makes sense for you and fits with your personal health philosophy.
To learn more, read "Femtech To The Rescue" by Marsha McCulloch in the May 2021 issue of alive Magazine.