When I fed my bio into ChatGPT and asked it to come up with a catchy title to present myself, it came up with: "Empowering women through data: Bridging medicine and technology."

This new generative AI tool had managed to come up with the perfect description of my ambitions simply by reading a few bullet points about my past.

Despite having worked with AI in different forms for the last 20 years, I was really astonished by the quality of the output. The AI I used to handle would read a lot of data and answer a question with yes or no, or something in between. This response was something completely different. Entirely new content was generated based on a couple of bullet points.

As impressive as this might be, let's go back to the catchy title and why I liked it so much. I started working in FemTech in 2015, before the term “FemTech” was even invented. The word was coined in 2016 and is a combination of the words female and technology. It refers to technology specifically aimed at women and women’s health.

The company I worked for was a startup, and we developed a smart bracelet to measure several vital parameters while women were sleeping — temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and more. Using the collected data, we trained our AI to answer with a yes or no if they were in their fertile phase of the menstrual cycle.

The changes that we detected with the bracelet were caused by the hormonal fluctuations over the cycle. Before working with menstrual cycles, I had considered hormones and hormonal balance a bit hippy-dippy and it wasn’t something that I took very seriously. We had of course learned about it in school, but it was only focused on the reproduction itself and no one spoke about all the other hormonal effects. Working with the data we collected with our wearable, I was really surprised how distinctly we could measure the physiological changes that the hormones were causing. And if they could cause changes in our temperature, heart rate and breathing rate, what other effects could they also have? The more I read, the more fascinating it became. The main sexual hormones, estrogen and progesterone, change the brain, mood, digestion, eye-sight — the list is endless. These effects are both real and measurable. Understanding how the hormones affect you during the menstrual cycle can be very empowering, whether you choose to acknowledge it, or simply ch0ose to ignore it.

While working at this startup, I was often surprised, and even a bit sad, how little many women knew about their bodies in general and about their fertility in particular. When the day came that they wanted children, women were often shocked by how difficult it was. Maybe they had underlying issues that had never been resolved because they had been prescribed the pill to cover the symptoms rather than solving the real problem. Or, they had simply waited too long, deceived by all the images we see in the media of older women with prams, which only rarely talk about the costly fertility treatments that they have gone through to become mothers. If only the women had known their own data, a well-founded decision would have been possible.

Fertility is not the only thing that’s important to know about. Women’s experiences have since long been neglected and not taken seriously, and by knowing what is considered normal or not, women can advocate for themselves. Women’s menstrual pain is a typical example. Now it is known that debilitating pain is often a sign of an underlying issue such as endometriosis, but still many women do not receive proper help. It is therefore as important as ever to know the facts and persisting in getting the right care.

There is so much that we don’t know about the female body, and this is why we need to keep collecting data and doing research. Technology can play an important role in data collection, for instance by using wearables. Other technologies, such as AI, may leverage the data to extract knowledge and help you make decisions, meaning an effective empowering of women through data.

This is why I am very excited to start writing for ForbesWomen — to explore the novelties within the area of women’s health and FemTech. Hopefully, as ChatGPT suggested, to empower you by bringing you data and introducing you to new technology.

Source link