Pioneering Apple study destigmatises menstrual symptoms

An Apple-led study has validated womens experiences of a wide range of menstrual cycle symptoms, including some that are less commonly known or discussed, that will help destigmatise menstrual symptoms.

The Apple Women’s Health Study team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on Wednesday released a preliminary study update, offering pioneering scientific insights on women and their menstrual symptoms, made possible through the innovative research methodology of the Research app.

The update, based on a cohort of 10,000 participants and inclusive of varying ages and races across the US, highlights how large-scale, longitudinal research on menstruation can help advance the science around women’s health.

The study found that most frequently tracked symptoms were abdominal cramps, bloating and tiredness, all of which were experienced by more than 60 per cent of participants who logged symptoms.

More than half of the participants who logged symptoms reported acne and headaches. Some less widely recognised symptoms, like diarrhoea and sleep changes, were tracked by 37 per cent of participants logging symptoms.

“These findings take us a step further in validating and destigmatising period symptoms,” said Dr Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of Health.

Initial analysis also suggests these symptom trends hold true across a wide range of demographics, including age, race, and geographic location.

For example, across Black, Hispanic, and white participants, the most commonly reported symptoms were abdominal cramps, bloating and tiredness.

“Our study will help to achieve a more gender equal future, in which all people with menstrual cycles have access to the health services and menstrual products needed to feel safe and empowered,” said Dr Michelle Williams, Dean of the Faculty at Harvard Chan School.

The team will further investigate the preliminary data and submit a detailed analysis, including a breakdown of methods, for peer review and journal publication.

“The preliminary data we are sharing today suggests women across the country have a shared experience of a wide range of menstrual symptoms, and that this natural monthly occurrence is something we should be having more discussions about,” said Dr Shruthi Mahalingaiah, one of the study’s principal investigators.