HEALTH by Sarah Stacey

The Mail on Sunday - You - - In This Issue - By Sarah Stacey

Keep­ing track of your pe­riod is far from a novel con­cept. Some schol­ars have even pro­posed that the mark­ings on the Ishango bone – an an­cient African arte­fact – may have been an early lu­nar cal­en­dar to track men­stru­a­tion. What has changed, how­ever, is the tech­nol­ogy. No more mark­ing P in your diary, as I did. Now you can chart your cy­cle on your smart­phone.

Track­ing your hor­monal cy­cle of­fers im­por­tant in­sights into fe­male health. ‘It’s a use­ful step for un­der­stand­ing PMS, de­tect­ing con­di­tions such as en­dometrio­sis and chart­ing fer­til­ity. I def­i­nitely sup­port it as part of a woman’s health pro­gramme,’ says con­sul­tant gy­nae­col­o­gist Michael Doo­ley.

Health plat­form Flo is the first to use ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to give ac­cu­rate cy­cle pre­dic­tions. To date, the free app has ten mil­lion users glob­ally, mon­i­tor­ing dif­fer­ent stages in the hor­monal cy­cle from men­stru­a­tion to preg­nancy, early moth­er­hood and menopause. By anony­mously log­ging in­for­ma­tion such as symp­toms, weight and moods, each user re­ceives per­son­alised feed­back about their re­pro­duc­tive health.

Flo re­cently added an­other fan – the su­per­model and mother of five Natalia Vo­di­anova, who calls it ‘life-chang­ing’. She be­gan us­ing Flo this year to track her fer­til­ity. ‘After two days, Flo knew me bet­ter than my part­ner. After a week, it knew more about me than I did,’ Natalia told my col­league Mi­randa Thomp­son when they met re­cently.

After Flo told Natalia that her daugh­ter Neva, 11, was a can­di­date for the HPV (hu­man pa­pil­loma virus) vac­ci­na­tion, she con­tacted the app’s founder and joined as a key in­vestor and di­rec­tor. ‘It’s an in­cred­i­ble tool for women. The more you know about your body, the more you know how to be health­ier.’ Natalia will en­cour­age Neva to use Flo when the time comes. ‘I want her to know that hav­ing a pe­riod is a beau­ti­ful time to take care of your­self.’

When Natalia was grow­ing up in the Soviet Union, ‘you didn’t talk about what was hap­pen­ing to your body’. She adds, ‘When my boobs started to grow, I thought some­thing was wrong with me. My mother said noth­ing. I was too ashamed to talk to my grand­mother about it, so I just wor­ried.’

En­cour­ag­ing open­ness around periods is fun­da­men­tal to Natalia’s global cam­paign ‘Let’s Talk About It. Pe­riod’. This month, she is trav­el­ling to In­dia, where men­stru­at­ing women are of­ten con­sid­ered ‘dirty’ or ‘un­clean’, to speak out on pe­riod stigma and em­power women.

Natalia thinks so­ci­ety should be more con­sid­er­ate when women have their pe­riod, par­tic­u­larly at work. ‘If you’re sick, some­times you can’t go to work. It’s the same when women have bad pe­riod pains. It should be taken se­ri­ously,’ she says. Her take-home mes­sage to women is ‘don’t be ashamed to talk about it’.

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