Why women are at the heart of the future of the quantified self movement. By Ida Tin (Founder & CEO, Clue)
The Quantified Self movement is becoming mainstream with an increasing number of sensors all around us. You can track your exercise, your weight, even your bedroom activity - and having smarter and smarter phones makes all that easier. But I believe we have only seen the beginning of what Quantified Self has to offer, and why it could change the way we think about personalized health care. Especially for women - and their men.
Biology vs. Usage Dropoff
Quantified Self is essentially about collecting data over time about recurrent body events. Big events in your life - illness, pregnancy, weight loss or gain - change your body’s rhythms in significant ways. While these vary from person to person, they follow bigger patterns that women share because of their reproductive system. And that’s why collecting data from many people can help a single individual understand his or her body, and what might lie ahead.
To me, the potential power of the Quantified Self movement is crystallized when it comes to female reproductive health. If one of the biggest hurdles of Quantified Self apps and tools is avoiding the usage dropoff after a few months, then female fertility neatly resolves that challenge simply because it is, by definition, a recurrent cycle.
At some point in her life, every woman will face questions and concerns about her fertility. Am I healthy, am I normal, what is this pain, am I fertile, have I gotten pregnant, am I at risk for infertility, what happens when I go into menopause, and on and on.
Taking Control of Our Health
Women have traditionally kept records of their cycles, but now that age-old habit can produce deeper insights via the power of connectivity and digital. Gathering data and "data-fying" qualitative experiences like pain, sex drive, skin issues and moods will help women not only feel in control but actually take control of their health, childbearing and family planning in a number of ways.
By understanding trends and patterns in their health, women can better communicate with their health professionals. A sudden changes in cycle rhythm might be an indicator of overall health or new problems, so keeping track helps women notice early on any issues they might have. Tracking also provides an opportunity for women to be aware of what side effects different birth control methods have and help their doctors find the best solution for them.
Through period tracking, women can see how different aspects of their lives - diet, exercise, stress, sleep - might influence their cycles. Conversely, it’s a way for women to discover how their cycle influences their life, such as mood, migraine, PCOS pains, and sex drive, where correlations are only becoming apparent through tracking over time.
Cycle tracking is a way for teenage girls and young women to get to know their personal physiology and understand what is going on in their bodies. And it helps women and men share the responsibility of family planning and trying for a baby when they can easily share the insights through data sharing.
There are many myths and taboos around this topic. But with tracking, informational content and rock-solid data we can help women and their partners be more informed, and to move science forward too.
Ultimately, I believe it will empower women and help all of us live more happily with our truly fascinating reproductive system if we have data demonstrating that it is an important part of women’s lives. Quantified Self is a toolbox for women to manage their fertility and to develop a positive, comprehensive view of their own bodies. This is what drives me, as both a woman and as an entrepreneur, to create something that is more than just a phone app.
What future do you envision for the quantified self movement?
About the guest blogger: Ida Tin is founder and CEO of Clue, a digital health company based in Berlin that makes the most user-friendly menstrual cycle tracking app available. Ida graduated from Denmark's creative business school, KaosPilots. A lifelong entrepreneur, she previously led motorcycle tours around the world and published a book about her experience. Image credit: the waving cat via Flickr.