This number represents half of our population.
This number represents all of the women in the world.
This number represents the catalysts who birthed you and I; the people who have allowed for the continuance of the human race.
Yet we neglect them.
But why? My reasoning is that it’s much easier (and cheaper) to force a universal standard instead of taking a specialized approach.
What follows is a recount of all of my learnings after countless hours of research on women’s health standards and clinical systems across the world, along with some thoughts on the future. This article started with one fundamental question:
What if a phone had the latest technology, but no screen? We would have this system of complexity but, no understanding of it superficially, or internally. We can’t take it apart, and we don’t understand what’s happening. This is how we treat female biology. As a male, I still feel inclined to recognize this inequity. If you’re a male too, keep reading. If you’re a female, keep reading.
As you mentally prepare yourself to dive deep through this simply explain, but still lengthy post, mentally prepare yourself, not only for a dissertation on the female health system, but also for a story, describing the journey of female acceptance, to female excellence, to now, what will be an epoch of something new for females, and our economic landscape.
Female biology is probably one of the most interesting natural systems of our time. Not only is reproduction made possible through these systems, but so is mating and the continuance of the life cycle.
This is why I find the female biology so interesting, and so important. It’s literally 1/2 of the population that’s helping to build the future for 100% of the population. What an interesting system.
And of course, I’m referring to women, who are consistently overworked, under-appreciated, and underserved.
Even though we constantly try to acknowledge the female body, and form an institute of equality, we fail to realize that female biology is unique in its composition, and requires more care than we give it.
Fortunately, we have begun to start recognizing women, not only from a socioeconomic standpoint, but also a biological one, which we’ll be talking about today.
We live in a really, really exciting point in history:
If we look at our lives today, the proportional growth between knowledge and time is supposed to increase exponentially. The human race will literally be off the chart. We’re currently experiencing these changes, understanding how society is already rapidly growing and developing.
We have technologies that are more computationally powerful than ever, cancer has been cured in space, we’ve achieved quantum supremacy, created electronic paper from organic substances, but we haven’t been able to cater to 50% of the population adequately. We’ve done all of these things, yet problems like maternal mortality and PCOS persist in millions, if not billions, of women across the world. As a male, I still think this is important.
Why haven’t we been able to solve the problems that are right in front of us? Why is technology always something that is used to make our lives a little bit better, instead of way better? Why aren’t we helping ½ of the world?
Because we have problems, and solutions that aren’t necessarily designed for women, and in turn don’t solve the problem or prevent the outcome.
⚠️ Pay Attention!
So, before we hop right in, let’s talk about an overview. Because you’re going to learn a lot about women’s health. If you’re a boy/man, KEEP ON READING. If you’re a girl/woman, keep on reading. If you identify differently, keep on reading. This article is important and useful for all.
What you’ll read, and learn about:
1.The Current State of Women’s Health.
What’s going on with women’s health currently?
- Problems with women’s health currently
- Shocking numbers
- What needs to Change
- Money and economics
2.Women’s Internal System.
What does inside of the female reproductive system look like?
- Female Biology and Biohacking
- Periods and the Uterus
- Pregnancy, PPH, nanotech, etc.
- Women’s Healthcare products (*fails*)
3.Innovations and Developments.
Femtech, and an exposition on entrepreneurship
- Currently existing developments and progress
- Novel thinking from yours truly ;)
- Prospects of the present (& future)
And probably other things I write in the moment.
1. Women’s Health Standards
A framework for solutions catered to 50% of the world.
Imagine you got the latest phone. You get the watch, headphones, and laptop to go along with it. The phone is glistening and reflective, and it has an amazing camera on the back. Then, you turn on the phone, and you realize that there's no screen. There’s no processing system to simplify the computational data, no widgets, no graphics. Just pure complexities of chips, sensors, and soldered micro-units.
There’s absolutely no context for all of the powerful machine packed inside this small form factor. Sound like anything similar?
If you guessed that this is what our knowledge currently looks like in the XXI Century for women’s bodies, then you’d be correct. Today, we operate just like the phone. We’re aware of the complex systems in the female body (namely the reproduction system), but we choose not to have any screen. Any useful information. Any knowledge.
We’re going in blind to one of the most difficult concepts to understand in our world today. Instead of trying to pivot, we just force what we already know on an entirely different demographic. We’ve spent years building products for men by men, so we try to do the same with women.
We built products for women by men.
As you can probably imagine, that setup didn’t work out too well, and a whole host of problems emerged from there. Not only did we exclude the only other biological gender from nearly all of our clinical trials for flagship drugs and disease testing, making women more vulnerable to diseases, and lacking treatments for sex-specific diseases, like endometriosis. To visually understand this, I’ve constructed a *beyond* Sudoku board of women’s health problems.
Let’s take a look at these issues:
- Over 53,000 women/year are diagnosed with uterine/endometrial cancer, and 11,000 deaths of women occur annually because of uterine cancer.
- 19 million women have menstrual issues, and nearly 10% of all women have issues with giving birth.
- Many women have toxoplasmosis symptoms during pregnancy, and up to 80% of women giving experience the effects of the parasitic disease.
- 303,000 women die during or after pregnancy each year, and nearly 225 women bleed to death after pregnancy each day.
- Women are two times more likely have asthma, and/or damage themselves during physical activities.
- 50% of women’s deaths to heart failure is because of incorrect treatments, which causes 1 in 5 of all female deaths.
- Women are extremely prone to getting a variety of diseases, and are still severely underrepresented in clinical trials.
This totals 7+ different problems that affect millions of women across the world, causing horrible conditions that threaten their future of forming a family, and sometimes their health all together. So, our current ISO 45001 health/public health and safety standard isn’t up to par for women.
However, by taking a step back from women’s health standards and looking at the physical health of a female from a biological standpoint, we see some pretty interesting emergent properties. So, for the next bit of time, we’re going to go over all you need to know about female biology.
Aside from being 1/2 of our population and awkward sex-ed classes, women make up half of the U.S. workforce. This means that the flow of the economy is largely dependent on women. Therefore, being in good health largely depends on that. We rely on women to fuel our cash flow.
- Women’s labor contributes $7.6 trillion to the nation’s GDP each year
- In one year, women working for pay in the United States earn more than Japan’s entire GDP of $5.2 trillion
- If all paid working women in the United States took a day off, it would cost the country almost $21 billion in terms of GDP
Someone did the math, showing us U.S.’ers (and the rest of the world) how much we rely on women.
Women make up 94 percent of employees at child day care services, 88 percent of home health service workers, 97 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers, 90 percent of registered nurses, 94 percent of secretaries and administrative assistants, and 89 percent of maids and housekeeping cleaners.
Not only are they fueling the $, but many of our integral appliance and educational work needs them. In fact, I can’t remember the last time when I had more female than male teachers (not including high school year). These occupations are the impetuses for educational efforts, and creating the next generation of high-paid individuals. Women not only birth our following generations, but they also ensure that it’s high quality.
Women dominate the healthcare industry, and make health choices.
80% of women make healthcare decisions in the United States. That’s well beyond just the “majority”.
Beyond that, they are autonomous. 94% of women make healthcare choices for themselves
Despite the stigma around doctors being men, and nurses being women, reality paints a different picture around women in healthcare. Over 60% of all of the employees getting into the healthcare space are women, and just under 50% of the average entry-level employees are women.
I’m seeing these changes myself. My sister’s an M.D., in residency for general surgery, and my other sister is excelling in finance, and possibly transferring into working in the public health policy space. Health care has the highest female representation overall for women!
Somehow, C-Suites are the lowest, oddly. In healthcare, and in every sector on average. However, don’t women have the entire femtech industry? Wouldn’t the Corporate America and Healthcare averages be slightly higher considering this company factor?
The femtech industry isn’t necessarily controlled by women.
Female health-technology is definitely a booming startup sector. A lot of money is being poured into it. Bleeding edge health technologies for women, like electronic tampons and organic sanitary napkins, which has led to over $250 million being raised from 2019 alone. This growth is expected to continue years from now, and will be valued up to 50 billion in 2025, of which there are 3.7 billion prospect female consumers.
Because women over age 19 also spend more per capita on healthcare than men, and women are the 90% major healthcare stakeholders in families, there has become a necessity for more advanced and equitable healthcare systems/technologies for women.
With over 200 femtech startups worldwide, they are taking on a wide range of issues and conditions that disproportionately affect women including osteoporosis, breast cancer, autoimmune conditions, stroke, thyroid issues, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
In 2018, femtech earnings were $650 million. In the beginning of 2019, earnings were already $250 million, and reach ~1 billion by the end of 2019. However, femtech as a cash sector doesn’t involve too many females, oddly. In 2018, only 2.2% of companies with all women founders received VC funding.
Despite this, women are leading the charts; women at the helm achieve 35% higher ROI than those led by men. Unfortunately, though, the largest funding rounds raised in femtech are majority by men.
Even still, the femtech industry is booming. But the continued need for general women-specific healthcare isn’t doing so well.
- Women are only 20–29% represented in clinical trials.
- Annual per capita spending among U.S. women ages 35–44, the spending amount was $4,717 compared to $2,518 among men/
- Fem-health costs $108 billion + $500 billion as an economic burden, of which >40% ($43 billion) was spent on female-specific conditions.
Add to that women pay more, and are more willing:
- Women pay on average 69 percent more for out-of-pocket healthcare costs than men.
- Women are up to 4 times more likely to buy or use new healthcare products.
And there’s an even larger why economically. Helping countries can mean big financial benefits.
- If Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal met all unmet need for contraception, per-capita income could increase by 31–65%
- Of the 38.1 million people living in poverty in 2018, 56 percent — or 21.4 million — were women, and they’re largely restricted by healthcare
However, even with the visible economic and societal losses and the goal to serve the majority of the poorest 1B on earth, we forget to actually put our money where our mouth is — oftentimes literally.
2. Everything about Female Biology
I. Introduction to Body Optimization
As humans, we always consider ourselves to be unique. One of things that makes us different from other organisms is our biology. Our brain is a complex of over 86 billion neurons, and we have advanced nervous systems that can regulate the millions of chemical reactions working in our body at a time. We are capable of regenerating our skin, have more advanced appendages than ever, and more.
Yet, for some reason, we don’t take care of our bodies. It’s almost as if we built hospitals to excuse ourselves from the personal responsibility of health. While of course, I don’t mean literally, it is true to an extent that we humans don’t take care of ourselves. We’re constantly subjecting our bodies to exhaustion, eating unhealthy food, not making an effort to understand what our bodies respond to best, etc.
Then, we panic when we find out that there’s something wrong. Something misaligned, misdiagnosed, or possibly even unknown. We rely on others, like medical professionals, to tell us what’s wrong, what we need, and what to do, even though we have an entire network of collective intelligence called the internet at our disposal.
It’s not that medical personnel, AI, and lab testing aren’t reliable, it’s that they often don’t have enough or the correct information to work off of. It’s also important to note that medicine is often standardized, meaning that most of the time you won’t be getting completely unique treatment. But look at how well we’ve done! We’ve created vaccines, developed CRISPR, cured diseases, invented efficient hospital methods, used nanotechnology for surgery, and created education for biomedical engineering.
But what if everyone had the erudition to do so?
This is the premise of biohacking, and more specifically in the context of biohacking for the body, where an individual uses experimentation, documentation, and analysis to understand and cater to their body.
Biohacking our Lives
The field of chronobiology — the study of biological cycles and their emergent effects — says otherwise. We have these constantly spinning clocks inside of our bodies, both men and women alike, that detail the different means by which our body reacts to things physiologically.
In fact, generalizing/standardizing biology is the premise of biohacking, so that’s what we’re going to do right now.
If we look at restfulness and alert-ness, we can see that there is a temporal clock constantly regulating the process. It’s known as the circadian rhythm.
Just looking at this process, you can see that it’s kind of like the holy grail of biohacking. It’s a 24-hour cycle of the body’s internal clock, through which we can determine the point in time where we are at optimal efficiency, starting at waking and ending at resting, and then repeating in a loop.
Looking at the timer, we can even see the points at which we secrete melatonin (from a structure called the pineal gland), a hormone that is produced in response to darkness, and helps to calibrate our biologically produced timers and help us go to sleep.
In our brains, we have a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is the central peacemaker of our circadian rhythm. The SCN is divided into two distinct clusters of ~10,000 brain cells: the ventral core, and the dorsal shell. The ventral core accepts images we receive from light, and the dorsal shell takes the retinal input. The entirety of the SCN is located inside of the hypothalamus, a small but extremely important region in at the base of the brain.
As the master circadian clock, the SCN delivers all of the necessary signals that cause the physiological responses observed in the circadian rhythm.
So since we have this cycle, we can optimize our biological systems by working during the times where we would be most productive physically. For example, at 9:00 PM, working isn’t optimal. Don’t start your work at 9:00 PM. That’s not smart. That’s when you start secreting melatonin.
The point is that by simply looking at our circadian rhythm and operating accordingly, we’re doing ourselves a favor, and effectively biohacking.
The funny thing is that not enough people do this. We’re not constantly examining our bodies, making sure they’re in check, making sure they’re regulated. And this isn’t limited to just becoming more productive.
We can simply biohack our health by observing and monitoring it.
So, back to our circadian rhythm. It’s functional, complex, and extremely useful in hacking our bodies in ways we have never before.
One thing that’s important to note is that like Einstein said, time is relative. Even though our goal is constantly to standardize biology, its also important to recognize that biology is inherently personalized (unlike education! 😤).
Therefore, your biologically created clock isn’t necessarily going to abide by the same cycle as in the photo, or in blogs you read, like this one. It’s important that you start making edits to your life, and recording the results. Like, for example, changes in your diet, time of sleep, and even tracking your own biological cycles.
There are so many places to get yourself started, and one of the best places is google.com. As time goes on, you’ll see me building out my own products for people to customize their biology as well, so stay tuned!
However, as I’m researching and building in this space, I’m also realizing how bad society is at actually taking care of their bodies.
Including myself, we’ve all abused our bodies at some point. How to abuse your body:
- Drinking caffeine and hurting your bladder.
- Eating past 8 PM (guilty).
- Pleasure Eating.
- Not drinking enough water.
- Over eating.
- Under eating (guilty, oddly).
- Ignoring your body (guilty).
- Sleeping too much.
- Sleeping late (guilty, literally right now ☹️).
- Stressing ourselves out.
- Tampering with acne or scars.
- Getting hurt and not taking time to heal.
- Bad dieting.
- Not being active or playing sports.
- Following stupid trends like “purging”.
- Subconsciously straining your eyes with screens/not wearing protective eyewear when using screens for extended periods of time.
- Not making any change!
- Suppressing flatulence (lol, just try not to do that)/stomach issues causing abdominal distention.
- Suppressing *bathroom activities*.
- Too much juice.
- Allowing your throat to get dry and NOT actively trying to stop it.
- Give wrong answers to the doctor.
- Not documenting pains or aches you have.
- Not paying attention to your body.
Especially for women. What I’ve learned is that
Female biology is probably one of the most intriguing and powerful biological systems to date.
Because women have an entirely new clock that males don’t. And because women currently run the world.
Female Clocks and Biohacking
So, what’s this new clock? Well, its another rhythm called the Infradian Rhythm is an additional cycle possessed by 50% of the population that occurs beyond 24 hours. This means that the cycle doesn’t even occur every day, but instead every 28 days. This process is known as the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle begins in females around puberty, and sometimes earlier, ranging from ages 8–12 beginning in the early stage called menarche, and concludes with menopause, or the discontinuation of the cycle at about age 50. During the course of this 40 year, there are physiological changes that occur, which causes very clear differences between previous and current states of female biology. Not only is it physically present within the general body, but it has been proven that the menstrual cycle also affects neurochemistry.
It’s during this timeframe in which women are provided with unique strengths and weaknesses that define biohacking.
But there’s a third plot twist; another timer. It’s called the ultradian rhythm. Instead of being like the circadian rhythm — happening once per day — or the infradian rhythm — happening 0 times per day on a recurring basis — , the ultradian rhythm happens multiple times per day.
This is what the ultradian rhythm looks like ☝🏾. It’s a continuous cycle in sync, repeating the same arousal-high performance-stress-ultradian healing response- cycle every 110 minutes (~2 hours, 1 hour 50 minutes).
Unlike circadian or infradian rhythms, the ultradian rhythm clearly delineates points of high productivity, release, and an uptake of productivity. Your work is in its optimal state within a ninety minute window, and then optimal efficiency decrease after the 90 minutes is up. Its kind of like a burnout period. However, if we stop working, you can rejuvenate within a 20 minute period, and begin working again for another 90 minutes.
However, it’s important to note that as time goes on, there isn’t any change in the ultradian rhythm. In fact, there is no change or variation in the ultradian rhythm at all. Its completely constant, same with the others. The variation only occurs when the cycle is disrupted! Unfortunately, we tend to do that a whole lot.
This chronological trinity of rhythms informs the female body — together, the ultradian and circadian rhythms intertwine with the infradian rhythm to create the menstrual cycle.
This is the process, composed of large convolutions of biology and hormones, that allows for the reproduction and growth in the female. The menstrual cycle itself is often considered the “period”, a cycle reset by menstruation.
But menstruation != the menstrual cycle. There’s way more to it than just the period.
This is the point of menstruation (this is the period; click to make the photo bigger!):
- The egg is matured inside of the ovaries. The best egg for maturation is chosen out of hundreds of follicles (14 days).
- The best/dominant egg is sent through the egg pathway (fallopian tubes) to the uterus.
- The endometrium thickens and produces chemical and mucus forms.
- The egg is expelled. If pregnant, it meets a sperm from the male to develop the baby!
- Collect the blood that is released.
Currently, collecting period blood is an extremely important task for women. Not only can it say a lot about women’s health, but it also prevents any visible leakages, which further increases the stigma and awkwardness surrounding menstruation.
Before we talk about collection, let’s talk about color.
The colors of period blood can mean a lot of different things. This is why, if you’re a female, its important to track and know your period blood colors, and observe after blood is collected. Obviously, red blood is normal and healthy, but there are a couple of other colors that are a bit different!
Black period blood means you are likely just at the beginning or the end of your period — which you should know, and should be self-explanatory — and/or can mean that there is a vaginal blockage, where the entranceway to the reproductive system/the uterus and its lining are blocked by a wall of tissue that covers the opening. The blood will be darker depending on the level of blockage → partial, half, complete, etc.
Pink period blood signals a high nutrient deficiency, such as vitamin deficiencies, and in tangent with that can indicate dietary processes and health conditions, from whether or not the person is exercising and active to the potency and healthiness of a diet. (keto diets can cause pink period blood)
Orange period blood isn’t a great sign. It’s typically caused because of some sort of infection, or a leakage of cervical fluid into the period blood stream. Cervical fluid is a mucus produced by the cervix cells (we’ll get to it later, it’s basically a hall on top of the vagina) that changes textures throughout menstruation and the menstrual cycle as a whole. It can be sticky, creamy, wet, dry, eggy, stretchy, but characteristically turns period blood orange.
Brown blood typically occurs at the beginning or end of a period, similar to black blood, but can also signal an early pregnancy, during which a period can be skipped (just like in normal pregnancies; skipping a period is one of the main reasons to take a pregnancy test).
Not only is color an important factor in period blood, but shade is a key component as well. In fact, red period blood doesn’t always necessarily mean “healthy”. Depending on how dark or light it is, red can mean endometriosis (a painful disease where an endometrium-like tissue grows outside the uterus) or fibroids (tumorish growths on or on top of the uterus) 😮. Here are the shades, and their meanings:
- Crimson red: normal
- Pale red or pink: the spleen may have some issues
- Dark red: possible liver distress
- Purple red: possible history of endometriosis or fibroids
- Bright red: high basal body temperature
Basal body temperature: The lowest body temperature achieved when you are at rest.
Collecting the Colors
Even with the exciting (and sometimes not so exciting) rainbow of period blood colors, the blood still needs to be soaked up and seen.
Therefore, there are many different solutions by which women can collect the blood released during their periods. There’s even been a movement of rubbing period blood on one’s face to remove un-comfortability.
🩸Side note… though the movement of a period face covering is now symbolic, the practice of menstrual masking is one that has been contentious, but in reality, physically beneficial! The idea is that making a face mask out of period blood provides platelets (disk fragments with no nuclei that allow blood to clot), which reduces acne, skin tags, and other superficial skin irritations.
Quite interesting, huh?
Anyway, we have quite a few different tools that have been invented over time that allow women to collect/soak up their period blood.
- External period blood soaking,
2. Internal period blood soaking.
If you didn’t know, period blood biologically filtered outside of the body through the vaginal canal, and (without collection devices) is discharged.
Therefore, we have virtually two products to pick from: underwear, menstrual cups, or tampons.
External Period Soaking Devices
These are devices that don’t require insertion into the vagina.
Currently, we have a single soaking device on the market with multiple renditions:
- Sanitary napkin: The “pad” that allows blood to leave the body, and basically acts like a sort of diaper and towel hybrid, soaking up the blood and keeping the women sanitary
→ There are also some reusable pads, that can last for extended periods, as well as thick and thin pads
→ Some reusable or one-use pads can be built into underwear as well, making them more comfortable and convenient.
Oddly enough though, some sanitary pads aren’t even sanitary. The idea of a reusable pad technology isn’t all that great if the pad doesn’t clean itself. Just think about if a baby urinates in its diaper, and you just don’t change it.
Swimming in one’s blood thanks to a reusable pad can mean the dried blood on the underwear/pad can pick up lots of bacteria, and possible give her an infection or disease in the vagina.
Aside from our proprietary pad designs of the XXI Century, the Hoosier Sanitary Belt was a premiere option back in the 19th century:
Though it looks more like a pair of deformed overalls than a sanitary product, the hoosier was essentially a pad attachment — though not really designed for comfortability, and wasn’t easily exchanged, which didn’t mean anything but fecal and vaginal bacteria accumulation.
Even with the development of pads, there still exist many sanitary issues and limitations. They are that expensive ($4.97/pack), and reusable ones tend to be more expensive thanks to their “unique” value.
Unfortunately, thanks to our economic divides, many women can’t afford them (and other collection methods), or afford to clean them, or can only buy a very limited supply that they reuse. This is not good. Pads should be changed more and more often for optimal sanitary conditions. So, instead of pads, this is what some use:
Using these types of materials instead of pads don’t provide adequate physical coverage in the slightest, are oftentimes uncomfortable, and lead women to just not use sanitary products all together for fear
It’s an unfortunate occurrence that has sparked the #freeperiods movement after the then-teenager Amika George witnessed individuals like Rachel Krengel and other young girls (especially mothers) in the UK suffering through period poverty, or the lack of resources to buy sanitary products.
And this isn’t breaking news, nor is it a so-called “third world problem”; over 48 million women in the U.S. are experiencing period poverty, and over 500 million worldwide. This also applies to internal cllection devices:
- They are not affordable:
- Many in the U.S. are forced to make a terrible choice between buying food or menstrual products
- The “tampon tax” is an unfair and discriminatory economic burden. States should not profit (an estimated $130 million annually) from periods
2. These are not sustainable:
- 5.8 billion tampons were sold in the U.S. in 2018, a third of the global total
- 7 billion tampons end up in landfills, where plastic applicators can take centuries to biodegrade
3. These are sometimes dangerous:
- Tampons(especially super-absorbent varieties) that are left in the vagina for a long time may encourage the bacteria to grow. Tampons can stick to the vaginal walls, especially when blood flow is light, causing tiny abrasions when they are removed — this can cause toxic shock syndrome (TTS) → a rare issue
- Only up to 8 hours of use
- Inserting the cup without proper lubrication can cause discomfort.
- Irritation can also occur if the cup isn’t the right size or if it isn’t cleaned properly between uses.
The same sustainability and economic issues are just as bad with external devices, like pads
External collection technologies are considered more novel, as it doesn’t require the woman to sit in their blood for hours, and instead have it soaked up by placing things like tampons (contemporary patent image to your left 😉), sponges, rings, and of course cups, directly into the vagina.
However, there are many benefits to these technologies if inserted properly (which I will try to talk about — I don’t have any literal experience with this tho!!!), including the fact that they’re comfortable, can be worn during any occasion, don’t affect vaginal pH (which is a contributing factor that determines diseases like bacterial vaginosis — which affect A LOT of women) and don’t require the blood to splatter out first.
The Menstrual Cup — Insertion + Use
It’s important to note that though it is possible for the menstrual cup to cause TTS, albeit very rare (even rarer than with tampons). This occurs when Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria — which naturally exist on your skin, nose, or mouth — are pushed deeper into the body.
To date, there has only been one report of TSS associated with the use of a menstrual cup.
To use a menstrual cup, a woman and their doctor will select one together to determine a size, other physical personalizations, and sometimes even a specific brand to use. When trying to select, these factors are/should be taken into account:
- your age
- length of your cervix (in bio area)
- whether or not you have a heavy flow
- firmness and flexibility of the cup
- cup capacity
- strength of your pelvic floor muscles: the muscles at the bottom of your pelvis that support it
- if you’ve given birth
If you’re a woman under 30 years old who hasn’t given birth through the vagina, its likely that a small cup size would be used. If you don’t fall into either category, or have really rough periods, then you’re likely to be assigned a larger size to use.
So, let’s begin thinking about how to insert a menstrual cup.
The process of insertion is very similar to that of tampon; designed to be simple and comfortable. Healthline gives a clear description!
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Apply water or a water-based lube to the rim of the cup.
- Tightly fold the menstrual cup in half, holding it in one hand with the rim facing up.
- Insert the cup, rim up, into your vagina like you would a tampon without an applicator. It should sit a few inches below your cervix.
- Once the cup is in your vagina, rotate it. It will spring open to create an airtight seal that stops leaks.
- my added #6
6. Wear the menstrual cup for 6 to 12 hours, and then remove it with proper practice, observation, and caution.
Overall, there’s so much importance that lie in the idea of utilizing period blood soaking/collection methods for analysis as new and emerging technologies develop that use blood as a biomarker, or physical determinant in female period health.
However, menstruation is merely one piece of a six piece puzzle that results in the entirety of the menstrual cycle itself. In fact, the period is essentially only the first part of the menstrual cycle. It is made up of two partially concurrent sub-cycles called the ovarian and uterine cycles, which together maintain the uterus and the ovaries, and create the menstrual cycle.
Therefore, the menstrual cycle is composed of four main phases and two instances 👇🏾
- Menstruation (Instance): Often painful, this is the shedding of the uterine lining that begins the menstrual cycle (3–7 days).
- Follicular Phase: This is the stage in which an egg is being prepared to get released, and occurs between menstruation and ovulation (7–10 days).
- Proliferative Phase: This is the regeneration after menstruation, where the uterine lining is created once again (4–6+ days).
- Ovulation (Instance): When eggs are released from the ovary (12–24 hours; egg dies in 24 hours if unfertilized).
- Luteal Phase: (If applicable) this is the preparation for pregnancy. Otherwise, this is just the space between ovulation and then re-menstruation (12–14 days).
- Secretory Phase: This is the phase in which the uterine lining produces important chemicals that allow for the lining to undergo menstruation, or bolsters the body in preparation for an early pregnancy.
This (below) is the female reproductive system that the cycle occurs in.
It’s kind of like a warehouse. The opening is the vagina (I cannot believe I just wrote that — never thought about this moment or article in a million years lol), the hallway is the cervix, the endometrium/uterine lining is the wall, the uterus (and endometrium)/womb is the main hall, and then there are smaller rooms called ovaries that is for egg-only guests, and can be reached through the fallopian tube hallways, through which the egg guests go to the uterus (main hall).
Therefore, this reproductive party can be sectioned into different halls that describe specialized functions in the female reproduction system. The entranceway is the cervix and vagina, which allow insertion and removals. The movement and circulation of eggs, is the packaging hall, and then the reproduction hall is the womb, comprised of the endometrium and uterus, which allows for the main event to occur, which is the development and birth of babies!
When the cycle is followed, there are clear hormonal changes that the female body undergoes. Integral hormones levels, like those of progesterone and estrogen constantly fluctuate over time.
Note that the cycle is split; the pre-ovulation step of the menstrual cycle contains the follicular phase of the ovarian cycle and menstruation and proliferative phase of the uterine cycle occur at the same time. First ~1/3 of the follicular phase, menstruation occurs, and then for the next ~2/3 of the follicular phase, the proliferative phase occurs. During this entire phase, levels of progesterone and estrogen are low, but close to the end of the follicular phase, estrogen rises.
During ovulation, estrogen reaches it peak thanks to the follicular phase, and then ultimately drops back down.
Then, after ovulation occurs, the post-ovulation step of the menstrual cycle takes place, in which the luteal phase of the ovarian cycle and the uterine phase of the secretory cycle take place. During the luteal phase, progesterone is produced rapidly, which also hits a peak before lowering as well.
If pregnancy doesn’t occur, then this is the standardized hormonal change for a female. However, in the case that a pregnancy happens, the female will skip a step of menstruation, not shedding the endometrium, and will instead produce a lot of estrogen — more than in their entire lifetime.
The production of estrogen in the female body means that vascularization of the placenta, the organ that feeds the currently unbirthed baby through the umbilical cord (basically a feeding tube that keeps the baby alive by pumping the mother’s nutrients to the body), and the uterus is increased. The production of blood vessels (which is vascularization) is optimized, thanks to the increased production of estrogen in the body.
Now that we understand each phase, let’s begin to break down each of the different integral parts into their bodily effects.
Before menstruation, there’s premenstrual symptoms (PMS), which describes a painful point before menstrual cycle (when not considering the later stage of pregnancy), such as bloating, cramps, pains, and more.
The start is menstruation, and the end is technically menstruation too, because it’s a cycle. This is the point where hormonal levels are the lowest, or they reset.
This is the 7 to 10-day process that occurs after menstruation.
If you remember from my previous article, the hypothalamus is a little pea shape that helps a lot of psychological response and links the nervous and endocrine systems together, keeping the body balanced. This hypothalamus in your brain stimulates the tiny pituitary gland, that serves as a nexus point to control and influence other endocrine glands.
The other glands in the system also produce other secondary hormones (aside from the third one):
parathyroid hormone (PTH) → parathyroid
thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) → thyroid gland
follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or luteinizing hormone (LH) → ovaries
adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) → adrenals
and yes, I can say all of these 😎
The reason the pituitary gland is stimulated is to produce another hormone called FSH, or the follicle-stimulating hormone (shown in the graph), though not in extremely high quantity when compared to other hormones. The FSH is delivered directly to the ovaries, which has hundreds (of thousands) of egg follicles, little packs of liquid, and once the dominant one is chosen, the FSH helps to continue to process of egg maturation. In maturation and choosing, the follicles get larger.
I would say that your (assuming the “you” is a female haha) ovaries have a pretty difficult time choosing which egg to pick, because there are over 300,000 different ones to choose from between the two ovaries! As the dominant follicle’s released for ovulation, it releases estrogen, the cause of the aforementioned peak of the hormone.
The reason the endometrium becomes thicker and is chemically changed is because the body, like with everything else it does, requires an extremely specific biochemical state for anything to work.
Within 3 to 4 days, ovulation occurs after the dominant egg swells up to about 3 cm. At this point, the follicle is the largest its ever been, and is producing a ton of estrogen, until it hits a limit and starts plateau and decrease. Once estrogen levels smack the roof, a new signal tells the brain to tell the body to start producing the luteinizing hormone in preparation for the luteal phase instead.
Then, the fallopian tubes transport the egg to the uterus, which now posses the optimal environment for the egg to move through. The thickness shouldn't be mistaken for roughness. The endometrium is now full of protective lining cells due to the previous increase in estrogen.
Following ovulation, a 10 to 14 day phase occurs, where the follicle with the egg inside, busts into a corpus luteum, which is a hormone-secreting globule made up out of cells.
The corpus luteum releases plenty of progesterone and little bit of estrogen. Once again, progesterone levels also hit the roof and stop going up at ½way through the process. When progesterone skyrockets, the production of FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH) cease as a resulting signal.
Estrogen also stays on a high, because the wonderful environment of the uterus and state of the endometrium is necessary to be maintained. The entire menstrual cycle is just the body acting as if it is going to have a baby, so the main hall is still expecting a fertilized guest.
If not, the corpus luteum is reabsorbed and unused.
A lot of these hormones produced are really important.
There are a variety of hormones, called the primaries, that are in high concentrations during some point of the menstrual cycle. They include progesterone, estrogen, FSH, LH, insulin, testosterone, and cortisol.
Together, these seven primary hormones in form the organization of female biology and its reproductive capabilities, and gives them advantages to be leveraged when biohacking.
To reiterate, a hormone is a substance that is produced by different structures within a organism and sent to specific cell sites or tissues in the body to either A.) regulate, B.) stimulate a function C.) stimulate cells specifically.
Progesterone is an important hormone that is heavily built up during the instance of ovulation. Progesterone stimulates the optimal thickening of the endometrium, as the uterine lining is required to have a wall of protective cells in case a fermented egg is headed to the uterus.
However, in most cases, there’s no baby/fertilized egg received, and the body continues to prepare for pregnancy over and over again until menopause. Since the fertilized egg typically isn’t received, the progesterone levels will dip down, and then chemicals are released to again prepare for endometrium to be shed away during menstruation.
You can think of progesterone and estrogen as a scale. When estrogen goes up, progesterone assumes levels that put estrogen and progesterone at an equilibrium so that the body doesn’t go way out of whack. The reason for this balance is that progesterone stimulates ease in the body, allowing it to rest, relax, enhance emotional state and sleep. Progesterone does not cause sleep, but rather strengthens processes that allow the body to take a break.
Estrogen, progesterone’s counterpart, does quite the opposite, which is what creates the counterbalance. As we already know, estrogen begins to start peaking during the follicular phase and during ovulation thanks to the egg follicles releasing it. Estrogen, though most prevalent in ovaries, can be traced around lipids and fatty cells. The reason for this is that estrogen is attracted to fats but repelled by water. Estrogen has also been found as a trace hormone in the adrenal gland as well.
As we already know, estrogen helps women prepare for pregnancy by thinking up their endometrium and stimulating this stronger wall made of protective guard cells. However, estrogen has a lot of other protective functions aside from building up the uterine lining.
Estrogen is not only is a primary in other processes, but can also prevent a variety of diseases, from high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis. However, estrogen, being so wide spread in the body, can also progress lethal disease, if in excess or recess, like osteoporosis and cancers (breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostate, endometrial). This is why it’s so necessary for the body to have a balance.
Estrogen also causes extensive physiology changes that aside from changing the walls of blood vessels. In fact, it increases the size of the pelvis laterally (increasing hip size), and stimulate the breasts to grow larger (this is one of the last things I thought I would ever say publicly). Estrogen also regulates cholesterol, an important lipid steroid in the body.
FSH is the hormone responsible for stimulating the growth of the egg follicles inside of the ovaries, and grows out the dominant follicle to its desired size. It is secreted by the pituitary gland. When ovarian follicles being maturation thanks to the brain’s gland releasing and increasing the amounts of FSH, the estrogen levels in the body are also increased as the follicles balloon up.
A lack of FSH is not good news. Follicles will not grow and the woman will become infertile. Too much FSH can cause menstrual difficulties in women, lowered libido, and early or delayed puberty in children.
And yes, libido = desire for intimacy. However, its not in a weird way, its apart of our biological code. At a young age — like 14 — libido is low. However, as the hormone testosterone stimulates the release of dopamine, a “happy” neurotransmitter at the nucleus accumbens, a region at the surface of the forebrain, and the association stimulates the desire. However, sex hormones and biology aren’t the only causes of libido. In fact, natural libido becomes immoral and twisted typically because of environmental/social factors.
Anyway, a lack or excess of FSH in the female can stop that 👆🏾.
Then, if no FSH is produced and freed into the body, the imbalance can also mean pain, because the uterine lining will not thicken and no big dominant follicle will be grown. Recall that an uptake of estrogen is a derivative of the uptake in FSH. More FSH causes more estrogen and some progesterone to be produced, so without FSH, the menstrual cycle is kind of cut short.
As we already know, LH and FSH are related to one another, and are both released in similar ways: via the pituitary gland site and near, but before, or during ovulation. LH is what causes the now 2–3cm big dominant egg to burst into a corpus luteum instead. After this change, the once-egg-follicle then begins to release estrogen and progesterone (because what doesn’t in the menstrual cycle?).
If the luteinizing hormone levels are out of sync in the body, nothing good comes out of it. In fact, it can cause something called polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. This is when multiple cysts form painfully on a singular ovary. Nearly 10% of all women undergo this. Ouch!
A lot of LH can cause random ovulation and cause the follicles to grow, but zero movement to the fallopian tube and ultimately to the uterus. Therefore, infertility is caused. Speaking of fertility, LH in men is also important, as it causes the testicles in men to make testosterone, creating sexual compatibility (another sentence I thought I’d never share on the internet…) between the male and the female.
If you know of or have diabetes, you’ve probably heard of insulin, and possibly take insulin. In diabetics, this hormone is deficient, which has different effects on the body, especially with regard to blood sugar. Insulin is also an important hormone in the menstrual cycle.
When you chomp down some pasta, inhale a macaroni and cheese, or eat anything that’s fast food, you’re biting down and swallowing and combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen called a carbohydrate. When you are doing this, your body takes what you’re eating a refines in down into its basic sugar form, called a monosaccharide. The specific monosaccharide that is created in this case is glucose, a sugar containing six molecules of carbon (hexose).
As glucose leaks into our blood, the pancreas releases insulin, which guides the glucose to somatic cells in our bodies so we can make energy! Insulin allows glucose to balance blood sugar. When insulin levels are aren’t calibrated, there is a discrepancy in blood sugars, which can lead to diabetes, and also affects on fertility and the quality of menstruation.
Testosterone is a hormone that’s consistently associated with males, but it has a pretty important tie-in with females. We already know what the high buildup of testosterone does for us males (e.g: stimulating physical growth, inducing libido, blood vessel control, creating viable sperm), but what do its low levels in the female body do?
Well, it basically does the same thing it does for the male, except in regulated and less proliferative concentrations. It commonly works in tandem with estrogen to stimulate growth and repair of reproductive tissues, bone mass and muscle, and also libido. However, too much testosterone can cause adverse effects, and even disproportional muscularity and growth, affecting health, and can even distort libido.
A mouthful of a structure called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the adrenal gland controls how much cortisol is released. Cortisol is considered to be the “stress” hormone, which builds up during the follicular phase of the cycle.
Cortisol helps to increase sugar in the bloodstream for the brain to leverage at an enhanced rate, which frees up more opportunity for tissue regeneration. However, Cortisol is not a hormone that ever meant to be in high concentrations within the body.
Low cortisol isn’t super common, and has some effects on the menstrual cycle. However, high cortisol levels can be lethal, stopping ovulation, causing progesterone loss, infertility, and more disruptions to the female reproductive system.
Let’s summarize with a pictorial TL;DR.
Advantages of Hormones
The female physiology, though complex and oftentimes painful, describes some behavioral and cognitive functions that make it easily optimizable with biohacking. There are four main effects that the cycles have on behavior and neurological patterns:
During the instance of menstruation, women and girls are more inclined to deep introspective and personal thought. This is also a period (literally) that causes pain. It’s recommended that during this time, women try to understand what makes them happy, and where they find comfort.
Its also allegedly a good time (sometimes) to gorge weird food combinations, but I wouldn’t know.
Anyway, as for biohacking, its important that women focus on what they want to see happen in their lives, and just try to think more about themselves than other people, and focus less on the possibly associated pain. In addition, this time optimizes personal evaluation, allowing females to understand the things they take place in and what value they get.
Overall, menstruation is neurologically stimulating and (most times) physically painful, so its best spent with support, but for a majority of the time, alone, which will allow the brain to rest, and allow for the opportunity to take a break from life’s pace and think.
However, it’s also during this time that the left and right hemispheres of the brain are closest in synch. Because of this, is also strongly advised that one doesn’t just sit around, but also leverages their enhanced intellectual capacity for the 3 to 7 days that menstruation occurs.
This is the phase of the menstrual cycle that optimizes for creativity and mental development. During this phase, estrogen concentrations increase, meaning that neural activity also spikes. It’s during the follicular phase that women are inclined to have increased memory, and neural capacity.
The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle means hormonal transformations. Fortunately, these transformations mean that the body is more in tune for creativity, ideas, and flowing. Honestly, if you’re a female during the follicular phase trying to come up with a product idea, business plan, etc., this is a perfect time to brainstorm and overcome a problem. Use it to the fullest.
Start something: plan for your future, work on a really hard consulting project, begin thinking deep thoughts, take a dive into philosophy and try to answer/just ponder on some existential questions.
As long as it fits in a one week to ten day window and requires some deep thinking and creativity, take it up and crush it (during the follicular phase)!
Again, during ovulation, there’s almost an entire stream of weekdays (3 to 4) filled with creativity and a synaptic boost. Because estrogen is reaching a peak at this time, female astuteness and awareness is at an all time high. Sometimes, the extent of the senses are also magnified. It’s like a super power. Even communication and clarity is enhanced.
In addition, the female body’s physical reservers are also heightened, boosting the ultradian rhythm and allowing work periods longer than 90 minutes, and not requiring as many breaks or need for ultradian regeneration. Longer work periods means more efficiency.
So, during the instance of ovulations, females are biohacking when they do more difficult physical or mental labor than they would typically do, or even socializing and making presentations and talking to people, because this is also optimized.
As we know, the luteal phase is when the dominant follicle bursts into the corpus luteum structure and releases progesterone. This creates a streamlined neural direction that optimizes focus. Menstrual cycle influence on cognitive function and emotion processing shows that the luteal phase creates compulsion to become busier and more detailed.
In addition to an increase in attention and sense, there will also be a craving for closure. To start something and complete it holistically. This type of desire could easily be directed towards work, and present a huge advantage to the female in their luteal phase.
From the perspective of biohacking, it’s during this time that a female should be working and focused on working on a project that has been going on for a long time.
It’s clear that the menstrual cycle and female biology just presents inherent advantages from these biological changes. However, another thing that body hacking — and female biohacking especially — can do is fortify current health standards.
So, lets recap how to use the biological properties introduced to enhance the female medical system, and overall life.
- Fully tracking circadian, infradian, and ultradian rhythms — find out what their graphs look like online, and refer to this article as well.
- Not just simply cutting out carbohydrates, but rather understand which foods have which effects that are best for dieting and also leave you feeling good. You actually need carbohydrates for estrogen production.
- Knowing about your period. Know the different colors of blood there are, what they each mean, and why they happen.
- Get sleep (for reasons that are just too obvious). Understand REM.
- Watch not only what you eat and drink, but what you eat and drink out of. It has been shown that eating and drinking out of too many plastics can cause the buildup of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are toxic to the female body.
- Make sure to spreadsheet everything, or keep it organized on paper.
Don’t forget, I’m also working on building my biohacking for all MVP on the side for fun, which both men and women will be able to create if they’d like.
Biohacking isn’t just personalizing and understanding your health in a way that benefits you, but its also making investments to further to goal of treating your body well. If you’re a female, check out this article detailing nearly 10 inventions made by women, for women, that could change your life and make it healthier.
Flo highlights seven key biohacking get-starters for women.
Biohack #1: Cycle sync your food
Eating to ease period problems requires synching your weekly meal plans with your 28-day cycle.
If the idea of switching up what you eat each week feels challenging, start with my 4-Week Flo Food Challenge.
Biohack #2: Cycle sync your exercise
To really optimize your hormonal health, you should shift your workouts to fit your cycle in much the same way as you do your diet.
Biohack #3: Detox the RIGHT way
If you suffer from hormone imbalances and period problems, it can be tempting to do an extreme detox. [no]
Biohack #4: Be very careful with intermittent fasting (if you do it at all)
Studies suggest that intermittent fasting can be very helpful for women (and men) with compromised cellular health, but for women in generally good health who are working to balance hormones and heal hormone-related symptoms, I don’t recommend fasting.
Biohack #5: Don’t default to the ketogenic diet
Here’s where this biohack becomes sex specific: thyroid problems disproportionately affect women. It’s estimated that one in five women have a thyroid issue, and many of those cases are undiagnosed. If you’re trying to bring your hormones into balance, your best bet is to eat in line with your cycle — and leave the ketogenic diet for individuals with other health issues.
Biohack #6: Ditch coffee
Caffeine is a no-go for women who want to optimize hormone health.
Biohack #7: Supplement 💊
Women have unique micronutrient needs, and [they] can’t expect optimal hormonal health — or optimal overall health — when [they] follow blanket supplement prescriptions. [They] need supplements tailored to our unique female physiology. Specifically:
vitamins like thiamine (B1) is inversely related to endometriosis.
Another important type of B vitamin, folic acid, is known to be important in managing PCOS.
Magnesium is a must for women with hormone imbalances since it improves insulin sensitivity.
If you’re suffering with fibroids or any hormone-related health condition, vitamin D is an absolute must. Probiotics are a must.
Many women can implement these actionable and quick tips, and I highly recommend you do so, and record the results, because why not?! You’ll be able to quantify what you got from it, and whether or not to keep going.
This actually brings me to a top book recommendation for female biohacking: In The Flo. It’s a really interesting read that highlights the importance of leveraging hormones to gain a physiological profit as a female. While I jumped around the book to learn all about biohacking and give some actionable tips to my sisters, if you’re a female, I’d definitely recommend reading it through and gaining a lot of value from it! Alisa Vitti did a great job with writing this.
Though women’s periods do present them with the possibility of utilizing their hormones to their advantage, there are still a lot of problems that need to be solved regarding women’s health, that extend far beyond the advent of biohacking. In fact, much of women’s health falls short in terms of production standards, despite the growing industry.
This primarily stems from how we develop solutions. For a long time, we’ve been relying on men to make everything. While we boys aren’t that bad at making stuff, there needs to be way more gender diversity. Because the products we manufacture aren’t designed for women, they aren’t effective. This is plain as day in the design of the first and second breast pumps, starting with the patent filed by Orwell Needham in New York in 1854.
Though the idea of automating the milking process with machinery was novel, the actual practice wasn’t that great. When I went around asking people what these two things are, I got answers regarding a whole bunch of other high-grade contraptions, and only one person actually managed to guess that they were breast pumps.
The breast pump ver. 2 was actually invented 20 years later, with 20 years worth more knowledge of machinery and technology, but C.E. Gassin and R.C. Gray didn’t take the woman’s comfort into account when making. Even after time passed, the benefits of the form factor weren’t heavily considered. As shown with the Hoosier belt as well, we haven’t been considering how usable the products we built for female biology actually are, and this fallacy has been carried into our XXI.
The overarching issue is that we don’t know how to make products properly, because our work flow is messed up. We’re basing our products on men, but marketing them as “exclusively for women”. If we’re going to build female-specific products, we need to either build them with women *very* in mind, or have women build them. Probably both. Actually, definitely both. Our current method is really just problem to economic value to solution.
👈 This is what our solutions should really look like. We should be increasing our focus on developing solutions to different influencing elements that cause a problem that is responsible for an outcome. We’re too busy looking at outcomes as problems, that we forget about the root causes and factors. Therefore, our solutions aren’t great.
A lot of times, our solutions don’t even solve the problem, or they can, but they aren’t built to solve the problem. Unfortunately, this is the case for a lot of women’s products. Fortunately, we can correct this, and we aren’t doing this for everything we produce.
From there, we start to realize that the root cause is more important than even the outcomes that we observe (a.k.a. our sudoku board of issues). Therefore, when we truncate out workflow, we find that it’s rather simple. Instead of looking at a problem like an outcome, we identify a root cause to determine an effective solution.
Let’s look at an interesting use case of this.
Efficient extraction method using magnetic carbon nanotubes to analyze cocaine and benzoylecgonine in breast milk by GC/MS
(a long title indeed… research paper style) Since we were just on the topic of breast pumps, and I really enjoy nanotechnology, I thought I’d introduce a novel method using magnetic carbon nanotubes to analyze chemical contents of breastmilk! This scientific study presents an application of the thinking that ought to be applied to female health, public health standards, and the femtech industry.
💡 But first… my genius segue into getting into carbon nanotubes!
Nanotechnology: Carbon Nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), or single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), are a bunch of carbon molecules that are attached together to form a tubular shape. Discovered in 1993 by a group of amazing scientists, the carbon nanotube structure actually describes the intersection between the fullerene (The hexagonal soccer ball carbon shape) and the flat graphene lattice (The flat sheet of hexagons formed by graphene).
But, before taking a full dive into nanotechnology, we need to talk about carbon, graphene, and geometry.
Carbon (notation C) is an element that comprises life, and is the fundamental component of a lot of things, including the atmosphere, our bodies, diamonds, etc.
Because carbon has 6 electrons, it can form a large variety of bond types. Carbon can also exist in many physical forms, called allotropes. Graphene is one of these physical forms — we see it in a wide range of objects, from pencils (in the form of graphite, stacks of graphene) to medtech.
Instead of confusing you with all of the math of graphene, let’s talk about what it does. Graphene is a honeycomb of carbons that is extremely conductive, and atoms in certain sheets are weak or strong. Therefore, layering graphene is quite simple. Turning these graphene sheets on top of one another can periodically create the Moiré Pattern, and this lattice allows electrons to move freely at certain points, inducing superconductivity.
So, now that we understand the basics of carbon and graphene, lets parse through this paper! Fortunately, the writers (Resende Dos Santos, et all.) so graciously laid out the entire premise of the paper, from methodology to problem to keywords, so I don’t have to.
Efficient extraction method using magnetic carbon nanotubes to analyze cocaine and benzoylecgonine…
1 Departamento de Química, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte; Brasil, MG, 31270-901, Brazil. 2…
Aim: The increasing use of cocaine (COC) during breastfeeding has led to growing concern about exposure of infants. Therefore, to study this exposure, a new method to analyze COC and benzoylecgonine in breast milk was developed.
Methodology: A new extraction method was used for the first time to analyze COC and its major metabolite, benzoylecgonine, in breast milk using magnetic carbon nanotubes partially doped with nitrogen.
Results: The calibration curves were linear in the range 5.0–180.0 ng ml-1. The limit of quantification was 5.0 ng ml-1. Coefficients of variation were between 3.2 and 13.9%. Recovery was between 89.6 and 99.2%.
Conclusion: The proposed method is simple, efficient and suitable to determine analytes in breast milk.
Keywords: GC/MS; benzoylecgonine; breast milk; cocaine; magnetic carbon nanotubes.
I’ll spare you the science-y language and cut to the chase. This is an example of where the thinking that I’ve referred to comes into play to develop better solutions. These scientists identified that the outcome was contention and concern of breastmilk content. They then found that the root cause was chemical substances, and narrowed it down to the factor of cocaine, and then considered important key performance indicators/metrics (KPI) that would play into their solution to make it effective.
Studies have shown that cocaine’s chemical structure makes it an extremely suitable substance to be inside of milk, particularly breastmilk, which raises ethical and physical concerns for infants who are breastfed. This is a reasonable concern, as this may have correspondence with some neurological diseases, and even latent addictions. No one wants to be feeding their newborn drugs, right?
Cocaine and its metabolites are detectable in breastmilk, although data are from random breastmilk screening of mothers who used cocaine recreationally rather than controlled studies. Cocaine breastmilk concentrations have varied over 100-fold in these reports, and have been found to have multiple implications in health.
Benzoylecgonine is a primary metabolite — a substance formed in metabolic processes — of cocaine (I’m assuming you know what this is… it’s a drug/chemical). Being able to find benzoylecgonine would be important in isolating and controlling cocaine levels in the breast milk, and possibly determining if cocaine is present, as it produces benzoylecgonine.
By doping, or adding impure atoms to a semiconductor, carbon nanotubes with nitrogen, the tubes’ magnetic properties could be used to screen and analyze breast milk chemical contents, and extract traces of cocaine in the breastmilk. Doing so was time and cost-efficient, as well as novel in its usage.
See how simple life becomes when we have a proper workflow?
Though I would argue that the problem being solved in this case is definitely not top three on the Save-Women’s-Health Bucket List, seeing the proper mental models and experimental framework combining exponential technology and women’s health concerns is definitely refreshing.
However, the big challenge with women’s health is understanding that we don’t want equality, we want equity. Because of the disparities we’ve had/still have in jobs, voting, etc., we’re led to believe that all needs to be equal. That everything should be the same for everyone, disregarding gender and race — the most “equitably concerning” topics.
However, we don’t understand that having differences, and having diversity is key. 5+ 2 can equal 7, but so can 6+ 1. So can 7+ 0. We need to understand that to arrive at the same conclusion, we have to have different constituents for different people. This is equity.
Equitable Female Healthcare
If there’s one major thing that we need to acknowledge, it’s that
Males and females don’t need equality. Males and females aren’t equal.
Specifically from a biological standpoint. And we should be happy about that! Women can do so many things men can do: feed babies, birth, bleed, and men can do some things women can’t biologically: increased musculature, sperm. These natural differences are what make them compatible, and trying to apply the same standards to them is ludicrous, and clearly not working.
Movements like feminism and women suffrage did call for equality and even superiority in some instances, but in a completely different fashion that is undoubtedly flawed for healthcare. Let’s take a look at the math thought experiment again. I like numbers 🤓.
What does this mean? We know that unknown something = 7, but we can be sure of what the something is. There are an infinite amount and combination of numbers that could be added, subtracted, multiplied, or divided, to arrive at the conclusion of seven. We would need context. We would need to know which operator we’re trying to use, which roles are important, etc. etc. Not knowing that means that we’re in an endless void of trial and error.
Unfortunately, we’re kind of there right now. There’s no concrete foundation to female healthcare, and arguably even femtech, currently. It all seems to be a slightly informed guessing game.
Would you take chances on your stock? Bet on your house? Buy something you couldn’t afford in the hopes of paying for it later? No. Then why are we doing that for our wives, sisters, aunts, mother, grandmother, etc.? Why are we doing this with the health of 50.8% of all humans?
💡 Hint: There’s no good answer. It’s a rhetorical question.
Fortunately, we can fix this. It continues with what happens when a period stops. We’re going to need to go into the science of partum-products. Buckle up for a ride on contraception, pregnancy/birth technology, and disease!
Into -ception and More
Conception and contraception are two extremely important topics in women’s health. Contraception describes the use of preparations to prevent conception, or the birthing of a baby. In fact, contraception prevents impregnation as a whole, which has completely altered the way women can live their lives. By allowing women to become intimate without giving birth, a lot more boss ladies started emerging.
According to studies, ~33.3% of all female wage increases since the 1960s have been thanks to birth control.
Being able to get the pill before age 21 has been found to be the most influential factor in enabling women already in college to stay in college.
College enrollment was 20 percent higher among women who could access the birth control pill legally by age 18 in 1970, compared with women who could not, and women who could access the pill before having to decide whether to pursue higher education obtained an average of about one year more of education before age 30.
Things like PlannedParenthood have rocked the female educational world (in a good way). Between 1969 and 1980, the dropout rate among women with access to the pill was 35 percent lower than women without access to the pill. When women were able to get a contraceptive pill before age 21, there was a 2.9% increase in female college grads.
Birth control has been estimated to account for more than 30 percent of the increase in the proportion of women in skilled careers from 1970 to 1990.9 The pill has also been touted as a major driver in women pursuing medicine, dentistry, and law.
Now, the number of women who complete four or more years of college is six times what it was before birth control became legal.
It just goes to show that there’s a right, and desired time to have children. And biology plays a huge role in that. Today, women are the primary breadwinners in more than 40% of American households with children, largely thanks to them being able to realize the benefits of education, and, literally, planned parenthood.
Birth control has transformed economic advancement, educational attainment, and health outcomes for contemporary society.
The Womanized World.
Contraception has caused radical economic changes for women, particularly for the better. Giving women control of their reproduction has given them more hearsay on the trajectory of their future. Nowadays, we have women being 6% of all C-Suites.
Now, women are at the forefront of their careers in business and entrepreneurship, of which their firms are the fastest growing business sectors in the U.S. to date, which also plays into higher earnings from companies with women on corporate boards. Guess who the undergraduate majority is? Women. Women earn half of all doctorate degrees, half of medical degrees, and half of law degrees.
It’s interesting, because, to an extent, we’re reaping equality from providing equity. 50% seems to be the “golden ratio” in this case (forget phi). Women gain money from cheaper contraceptives, which in turn helps everyone.
The next generation also benefits from contraception.
The federal government funds some family planning programs, and these have resulted in less child poverty and adult poverty. In fact, contraception’s effects carry on so far, that individuals born in the years immediately after the federal family planning programs started were less likely to live in poverty in childhood and adulthood, and children conceived in areas with greater financial access to contraception were 2-7% more likely to attain 16 years or more of education. Therefore, there’s a socioeconomic incentive to scaling this technology.
We promote choice while reducing death.
The contention around abortion, or the killing of a baby in the pregnancy and fetal formation processes, has primarily involved whether or not it is ethical. But birth control prevents the impregnation altogether, preventing the need for an abortion in the first place.
In fact, without these family planning services, the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions would be nearly 66% higher than they are now. Contraception prevents over 2.2 million unwanted babies, and possibly abortions per year.
Oral contraceptive use has consistently been found to be associated with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers. U.S. expenditures for ovarian cancer in 2014 were estimated at $5.5 billion and U.S. expenditures for uterine cancer in 2014 were estimated at $2.8 billion.
Given that women are roughly 80% of the consumer market (meaning that they are more likely to use new tools), scaling contraception, an already in demand service, would mean that the results could be magnified even further.
Making contraception available is better.
Women saved $483 million on birth control pills alone the first year after the ACA contraceptive provision went into effect! That’s a lot of money not being spent, and a lot more money that can be made.
The moral of the story here is that contraception is a great thing, and that the big problem is that
- Just seven years ago, 20.1 million women needed federally funded contraception, 5 million had no health insurance
- There is a proportional increase between more low-income women and fewer contraceptives
- This graph 👇🏾
This is a problem in countries outside of the U.S. as well.
The TL;DR here is that contraceptives are useful, but they aren’t scaled yet.
You might’ve noticed the graph says oral contraceptives at the top. Well, yes, there are multiple ways to prevent conception, from sterilization procedures to medication to different contraceptive types. But before we hop right into that, let’s talk about birth!
The Conceptive Science
Since you’re already familiar with the structure of the female reproduction system, we don’t need another BeAuTiFuLlY labeled diagram (but I will, make a lot more diagrams for the rest of this article 😉).
I would say that pregnancy and conception, and the future of birth are all really important and relatable sciences. With 11 billion people projected to exist in 2050, it’s clear that reproduction isn’t slowing down by any means. Therefore, babies are going to keep popping out of 4 million women every year, and we need to understand why women get moody during this time, how the fetus works, and what sex is.
As we know, the egg is sent through the Fallopian tubes, and after sex, reaches the egg. This occurs 12 hours after ejaculation, or the release of semen from the body.
The egg meets the sperm midway through the Fallopian tube highway, and from there we get a single cell through fertilization. The egg is fertilized at this point (conception), and we get a zygote. However, 24 hours before the the cells is fertilized, it undergoes a process called meiosis.
Here are two important terms to know:
- Haploid: having a single set of unpaired chromosomes
- Diploid: containing two complete sets of chromosomes
- Ploidy: the number of sets of chromosomes in a cell
- Sister Chromatids: copies of the same chromosome from DNA replication
- Cytokinesis: movement of the cytoplasm — the jelly like fluid in the cell
Meiosis describes the cell division process as a whole. There are two division processes that contain different “stages”: meiosis I and meiosis II. Each describe the overall process of cell division occurring twice in meiosis, which means that each cell can produce four gametes (germ cell; egg or sperm).
Pre-meiosis I, the interphase occurs. the cell grows during G1 phase, when the cell creates mRNA and proteins, copies all of its chromosomes during S phase, when DNA replication occurs, and prepares for division during G2 phase, where it produces the necessary molecules it needs to divide.
Phase: A stage of the cell cycle, typically involving interphase
So, quick biology/genetics lesson. Let’s quickly go over DNA replication.
DNA replication is where another strand of DNA is created.
To do so, we must unzip the zipper that is DNA! Fortunately, we have the enzyme helicase, which does this for us. Helicase splits DNA down the middle, forming two separate helices from DNA’s double helix.
These two separate helices are called the leading strand and lagging strands respectively. These two strands are antiparallel, meaning that they are parallel, but move in opposite directions.
The two directions are called 3' to 5' and 5' to 3'. The leading strand moves the right way from 3' to 5', while the lagging strand does the opposite.
Note that the directions are based on the order of carbon.
It is extremely important, as enzymes are super specific about everything, so the DNA helix needs to move in the right way! Replication happens on both strands.
In the leading strand, primase, an enzyme, creates a continuous strand of RNA called a primer, which serves as a marker that binds to the end of the leading strand with the help of the DNA polymerase enzyme. This is the starting site of DNA replication.Once all of the bases are matched up (A with T, C with G), an enzyme called exonuclease strips away the primer(s). The gaps where the primer(s) were are then filled by yet more complementary nucleotides. The polymerase then takes a stroll along the leading strand, and adds the necessary nucleotide bases (A-T and C-G) where they are missing. This is called continuous, as it’s fully progressive, and it works in the 5' to 3' direction.
As for the lagging strand, RNA primers are created again, which bind at multiple points of the DNA strand. The result is a bunch of DNA chunks called Okazaki fragments, which are appended to the lagging strand in 5' to 3'. This discontinuous replication requires that the Okazaki fragments are combined later on by an enzyme to create a continuous strand.
After DNA polymerase does it’s thing and pairs the proper bases, the exonuclease enzyme removes the primers, and then the spaces are filled with the proper As, Ts, Cs, and Gs. Then the DNA is looked over again like a test to make sure that everything is in the right place (and some mistakes will be corrected, but of course not all).
Then the DNA ligase enzyme is used to close the DNA sequences to create one DNA. With all four strands, you get two NEW DNA molecules, as you have created half-and-half new and old nucleobases. This means that the process is semi-conservative, as only ½ of it is actually new.
After you get the DNA, you move into the transcriptions process!
This is how RNA is synthesized!
The first step of transcription is the initiation process. This is where the RNA polymerase enzyme (the RNA version of DNA polymerase) bonds to the part of DNA called the promoter. Being at nearly the beginning of the gene, each gene has its own promoter. The RNA polymerase then creates a template to base the rest of the process on by separating the DNA strands.
The step of the transcription process is to prepare the strand by elongating it.
The created template strand of the DNA is the RNA polymerase template. It’s basically like the chapter of a book before the climax (except the words are each just A, T, C, G). RNA polymerase reads it, and starts building out RNA from the correct bases. This chain expands from 5' to 3'. However, the thymine (T) is replaced with uracil (U).
To finally stop, there is a gene sequence called the terminator that signals for the RNA that has been transcribed to be completed. The terminators cause the RNA polymerase to let go of the RNA.
And BAM! Onto meiosis itself.
In the first step of meiosis, the prophase, the chromosomes condense and pair up. Each chromosome aligns with its homologous, or equal and opposite, partner, of which the birthed child will end up receiving both pairs. For each homologue, their DNA is broken in the mirrored spot — shown as lowercase or uppercase — , and can therefore reconnect, and share their DNA.
This trade is known as crossing over. Its quite the *iconic* step in meiosis because it describes how the chromosomes literally go on top of each other to exchange genetic information. The synaptonemal protein complex glues the chromosomal homologues together. You can think of it like a peanut butter sandwich, where the homologues have this protein complex butter holding them together. Or if that doesn’t float your boat, try two pieces of fabric sewed on top of each other.
If you were to snatch up your nearest high grade $15,000 microscope 😎, you’ll be able to see these small stitches where the chromosomes are attached. These are called chiasmata. Once our protein complex breaks down, this is the jelly that is added to our sandwich to keep the bread together. For each homologous pair, there may be many many many (x25) positionally intentional crossovers.
Then, all of a sudden, that stringlike spindle I drew in the diagram starts to yank our chromosomes towards the center of the cell, called the metaphase plate. So, obviously, this stage is called metaphase. Then, the homologues are randomly lined up throughout the center. This process means that there is diversity in gametes.
Then, the anaphase occurs, and there’s more yanking for the homologues in store. This time, the sandwich is pulled apart, and polarized to opposite ends of the cell. The sister chromatids are still attached and intact, though. In the final step, telophase, the cells are finally at the opposite ends of the cell, and cytokinesis occurs to create two haploid cells as a result.
TL;DR: We get two haploid cells from meiosis I, and these cells go through meiosis again, without copying their DNA in meiosis II.
Before gestation (a process which we’ll get to later) occurs, cultivation occurs on the cellular/genetic levels to ensure that there’s a properly formed mini-me in that womb. We can visualize the development of the baby inside, starting a single egg.
Now that you’re a meiosis master, we can hop back into pregnancy. The cell has now undergone meiosis 24/36 hours after that, and become a mature oocyte, and is now fertilized by a spermy friend who travels through the vas deferens to get to the prostate gland. This is where the sexual fluid semen is created. As we know, this is when sex occurs, and and one sperm manages to find its way to the fallopian tubes.
This fertilization process gives us the zygote, which is the result of the fertilization of the two gametes. The zygote moves through the oviduct/fallopian tubes.
The zygote has an outer layer called the blastocyst, which implants into the endometrium by basically eating its cell! Because biology loves to throw us for a spin, the blastocyst has its own layer, called the chorion. The chorion relaeases human beta chorionic gonadotropin (β-HCG), which stimulates the corpus luteum that was previously formed during the menstrual cycle. If the blastocyst is unable to implant inside of the endometrium within a week, the zygote dies, and no baby.
Because the endometrium has already thickened thanks to the menstrual cycle, and this is where the multicellular implanted blastocyst takes refuge. This is where the pregnancy begins. The attachment kickstarts the growth and development of a fetus. Without this mechanism, and assuming the zygote would survive, birthing would take WAY longer than 9 months…
The first month of pregnancy is the embryonic stage. This is where the backbone and spinal cord are developed. The growth size is only about a centimeter and a half 🥺. Though this seems like a small amount of progress, the spinal cord is extremely complex, and the structure of the accompanying backbone requires many different chemical components. It’s a lot progress!
The second month of pregnancy is the foetation and organ stage. 10 weeks into pregnancy, the fetus is formed, and the organs begin to develop. At this point, the fertilized egg has about doubled in size.
3 — this month is the foetal stage. The appendages start to grow in; fingers and toes are also developed. The approximate size of the child (if you will — is it considered a child yet??) is 7.5 centimeters.
4 — heartbeat heard. By month number four, there is movement, and the heartbeat from the baby can be heard. This 13 cm baby starts to grow eye/eyebrow hair and nails! I’m personally starting to see why pregnancy is so exciting!
5 — fat phase. At this point, the foetus is getting a little fatter. Literally. Month five is when the fetus starts forming fat underneath its skin, and becoming bigger and heavier. Specifically 20 centimeters large. Oh, and the tiny package also starts to get faint hair on its head.
6 — becoming alive? It’s hard to define a specific role of this phase, but it is worth saying that the eyes open for the first time, and this is the point where some babies are born. This is called prematurity, and it can result in a variety of negative health effects, including being born at only 28 cm.
If not, the baby is covered with (white) bio-cheese called vernix caseosa. It’s a protective layer on the baby’s skin, and it’s why the baby always comes out so slimy when he/she is born.
In month 7, the genitalia come in. For a male fetus, it develops testicles in its scrotum. Even at 33 cm long, the body is preparing to make itself biologically reproductive.
Within 8 months, the baby begins to shed. The protective body hair, called lanugo, comes off for the fetus.
Finally, in the ninth month, the baby grows from 38 to 43cm. Fun fact: you’re about one-fifteenth as tall as a Giraffe when you are born.
The process of removing the baby from the womb is known as delivery, and there are a lot of different problems that can emerge. Typically, the baby is delivered via the vagina, but either way, it’s painful.
The environment in which the egg is situated needs to be absolutely perfect for a successful pregnancy. Pre-natal care falls on the responsibility of the mother, who has to keep track of her health and the embryo:
- Check-ups and professional doctoral visits.
- Sleep, rest, and exercise.
- Healthy nutrition; no drugs or alcohol.
Taking drugs, smoking, alcohol, etc. can affect the fetus, because chemicals pass directly through the placental barrier and interact with the fetus. You probably don’t want your unborn child snacking on cannabis.
Labor, Trying to Deliver
This is the painful part. If you’re a mother, this probably brings flashbacks to a very red and pressure-filled time. Like pregnancy’s nine months are divided into trimesters, the process of labor is sectioned into three stages:
- Stage 1 — the longest labour period; the time of contractions of the uterus causes the cervix to continuously open. The amniotic sac, the liquid filled sac that protects the fetus, breaks when the cervix dilates completely.
- Stage 2 — the minutes to hours process of the baby fetus traveling through the birth canal (and out of the body, eventually). As we all know, delivery processes are variable.
- Stage 3 — baby is born, umbilical cord is snipped, and then 10 minutes after the delivery, the placenta and fetal membranes are expelled. This is also called the afterbirth expulsion.
During labor, there can be a variety of things going on, and it is subject to the most medical complications. Fortunately, there are a variety of techniques to prevent mid-partum and postpartum issues.
Spontaneous — this is birth without all of the extra. No drugs, no special chemicals, just physical push and delivery.
Assisted — this is induced pregnancy labor through intravenous (IV) drips, cervical gels, painkillers, or vacuum devices to catalyze the delivery process. Oftentimes, assisted labor is necessary with pregnancies that have complications.
Caesarean — the baby isn’t born vaginally because either the baby is faced the wrong way, the mother’s vaginal doorway isn’t working, or some other reason that has to do with either of them. So, women are instead cut from their abdominal wall to their uterus, and the baby is brought out. This is called a C-Section. Because being opened up hurts, the mom is put under anesthesia delivered at the epidermis or spine. Apparently Julius Caesar was the first to be born this way??
Maternal/Identical — Two babies, same egg. The egg just divides in half to create twins.
Fraternal/Non-identical — Two babies, different eggs. It’s literally just that your brother and your sister’s eggs happened to be fertilized at the same time, so you’re born the same time. It’s no more alike than single birth brothers and sisters.
Birth is not a happy go lucky process though. Toxoplasmosis, PPH, and a variety of other problems can occur.
This is part of the reason why some women don’t want to have children, aside from the fact that they are extremely expensive. It’s a lot of risk, and pain. 1 woman dies from PPH every 4 minutes. In India, maternal mortality is .113% likely and rising. Though that looks like a small percentage, it’s a lot of women.
Many women in developing countries are subject to a majority of these issues regarding safe childbirth. That, coupled with the fact that access to contraceptives is heavily restricted means increases in children left without mothers. When we look at the numbers, they’re much larger that they come across. If we were to visualize how many women are dying because of issues like these, it doesn’t look like 113/100,000. It looks like this:
A lot more than it seems, huh?
Anyway, before we get into how the pregnancy and birthing processes can be strengthened, let’s talk about how to prevent pregnancy. We already know about the importance of contraception, and how there are novel methods to prevent pregnancies that have proved to really benefit women’s lives, especially in terms of education and life choices.
Into -ception and More Pt. 2
So, there are four contraceptive categories.
- Inserts/Sex Protection
- Oral Pills + Drugs
We all know that after the talk comes sex-health class. We all know that in sex-health class we learn about sex. And we all know that learning about sex involves condoms.
Let’s break the elephant in the room: condoms are the contraceptives that are worn over the male penis, so that when its inserted into the vagina, no semen enters the vagina. Therefore, no spermy friends meet the egg. The male condom is placed on the penis when it becomes erect. It is unrolled all the way to the base of the penis while holding the tip of the condom to leave some extra room at the end.
Erections = when the penis gets stiff because it fills with blood, so that it can be inserted easily into the moist vagina to release semen.
Condoms aren’t completely foolproof, either. They can be applied incorrectly and tear. Also, if you’re allergic to latex, you likely won’t be able to use a condom. However, condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Wait, women can wear condoms. Yes, there’s a female condom. It does the same thing, except it’s placed into the vagina. Though the reason this typically isn’t mentioned in sex-ed nor is it widely used/known is because female condoms tend to be uncomfortable and sometimes ineffective. This shows what a condom does for the body. We can clearly see that all form of sperm-egg communication is blocked off.
Aside from the actual female condom, there are multiple other contraception types that do the exact same thing, as depicted in the diagram. The two main substitutes are the diaphragm (I know, bad name), and the contraceptive ring.
The diaphragm — not the body part — technology is another technology that can be inserted by the user in her vagina. It’s a soft silicon dome, and is like a more advanced form of the female condom. Like the condom, the diaphragm just prevents sperm from entering the uterus from sex. With the diaphragm, however, it needs to be kept in place for at least 6 hours after sex, and must be taken out and cleaned after its maximum sustained use time of 24 hours.
However, the diaphragm is one of the few female-specific devices that are actually safely reusable (unlike sanitary pads). In fact, the same diaphragm can last up to two years if used and cleaned properly! Unfortunately though, diaphragms are a one-size-fits-all-women deal. The diaphragm is allegedly quite effective, though not as effective as pills or implants.
And yes, if you thought about it like I did, diaphragm in our abdomen is dome-shaped, as is this device. It got its name from the body part.
Unfortunately, condoms are the only contraceptives that protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), so the diaphragm won’t be doing so. Also, the diaphragm is sometimes uncomfortable and difficult to manage, and incorrect use of it can lead to an increased risk of getting urinary tract infection (UTI), which is a primary cause of kidney diseases.
However, the diaphragm does have some pretty epic benefits, including the fact that it’s hormone free, and can be used in any delicate walk of life, is properly reusable, is an immediate contraceptive, and it only needs to be used during sex.
So that’s a bonus — no having to walk about with silicone stuck in you (I wouldn’t know, but I’m just saying).
tl;dr on the diaphragm:
- 88% effective
- Not too expensive
- Insert into vagina = no products from sex
Next up is the contraceptive/vaginal ring. It’s probably the most innovative technology out of all of these 🙄. Still, kudos to whoever figured out (my curiosity got the best of me and I researched who) that a rubber band could actually become a contraceptive, because it’s helped a lot of women.
This technology is slightly more advanced than it looks, though. When inserted into the vagina, the polymer band releases hormones estrogen and progestogen, antonymous to the progesterone we know from the menstrual cycle. This direct emission of hormones dampens the woman’s ability to conceive. It is set in place for three weeks, taken out for a week, and then a new one is placed in for three weeks.
The main pro of the rubber band is how much control over pregnancy and periods the woman has, because use of it prevents fertility, but removal allows women to regain their fertility whenever desired if used properly. It’s also quite intuitive to insert, but can result in side effects, like sore breasts and odd bleeding. Overall though, the rings are estimated to have 91% success rate.
It only works for women who are cleared to use the device, and may not be biologically compatible or healthy for some women.
Drugs and Pills 💊
Drug contraceptives are considered be some of the best and most sought after contraceptives on the market. It’s also one of the most used contraceptive types in the world by women. There are two types of the general contraceptive types:
- The mini pill: This contains only the hormone progestin, which inhibits ovulation; also called the progestin-only pill
- The combined pill: This contains progestin and estrogen
The contraceptive pill has a variety of different benefits aside from contraception. When taken correctly on a proper schedule, the contraceptive allows women to have sexual spontaneity (sex at any time because the pill has been taken), and can continue on with no interruptions. Because the pills do affect the menstrual cycle, they can sometimes serve as period painkillers and acne reduction.
However, because this contraceptive is medication, the woman is required to remember to take her pill, and keep a proper schedule when using it — and it can only be used by women who are receptive to estrogen containing contraception. The pill is only available by getting a prescription from a medical professional, so one must visit their local doctor or sexual health clinic to get the pill.
There’s also a third birth control pill, called the extended cycle pill, because its dosage of progestin and estrogen prolong the period so that it only occurs once every three months.
All of these three pills share the need to be taken everyday, and have a calculated success rate of 91%, meaning that they are quite effective in use, and have larger consumer buy ins; women would rather swallow a pill than insert a vaginal ring or something else.
The final drug is the birth control shot (sometimes called the contraceptive shot). It’s a hormone injection, typically to the butt or the arm that gives 3 months of no pregnancy. It can conveniently be injected to by professionals, or by a “layperson”, if you will. Throughout the 12 weeks, the injected synthetic hormone, progestogen, seeps into the bloodstream.
Synthetic progestogen = progestin
The shot is said to have a 94% effectiveness, making it a top of the line option to guarantee that there’s no baby boom from any engagements for 3 months. However, the shot may cause disrupted periods or irregular bleeding. Also, because it's an injection, it needs to be time documented.
UH OH. Someone forgot to use their birth control before sex! 👇
All is not lost.
Good thing we have the emergency conceptive pill! This is the pill that’s used when no birth control is used during sex, but the individual wants the pregnancy to be prevented. Since it’s used late, its also called the “morning after pill” . This is a single dose pills that *may* need a prescription. It doesn’t really guarantee no baby, but it does work for many women.
If taken within 3 days, the pill uses progestin to prevent the ovaries from discharging a dominant follicle to meet with the sperm to give us a zygote → baby. If unprotected sex occurs, the woman has 3 days for an 85–90% of no baby using this pill. However, the effectiveness decreases the longer the wait.
Fortunately, the dosage was measured at the granular scale to ensure that any woman can take the pill. Unfortunately, the common side effects of the emergency contraceptive include nausea, vomiting and the next period may be early or delayed.
Emergency contraceptives are also handy and invaluable tools in instances of breaking condoms, sexual assault, or forgotten contraception.
Insertion tools describe devices that are more like implants that are inserted for, typically, extended periods of time. The two main insertion tools we’ll be referencing is the intrauterine device and the contraceptive implant.
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-Shaped device made from plastic with metal that contains progesterone, and it measure and placed inside of uterus by a professional healthcare worker. It can stay in place for up to 10 years, and the implant can be removed.
There are two IUD types: progestin and copper.
Progestin IUDs — plastic intrauterine device that administers birth control; lasts 3–6 years. It releases progesterone that makes the endometrium skinny out, and makes a cervical plug to seal the cervical canal (mucus-based) to prevent sperm
Copper IUDs — an intrauterine that inserts copper into the uterus for birth control, and the copper particles kill egg and sperm; lasts up to 12 years
Some IUDs contain hormones that are released at a periodic rate to stop pregnancies. In the case of unprotected sex, and there no emergency contraceptives available, the IUD — if used within five days. However, these require clinical assistance.
Copper IUDs are 99% effective, while hormone-based progestin IUDs are 99.8% effective, meaning that they are the most effective contraceptive method. However, because they’re implants, they are momentary, require a healthcare professional to insert them, and they cause bleeding and spotting for the first six months they’re using.
The contraceptive implant was literally a rod placed under the skin in a woman’s upper arm. When I first learned about this, I was weirded out as well. Interestingly, this arm-rod contraceptive releases a form of progesterone, which stops the ovary releasing the egg and thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb.
The rod lasts about four years, and requires a medically done small implant procedure involving anesthesia and fitting the rod, and later removing it. While it is over 99% effective, doesn’t interrupt, and gives full coverage, it can move. In fact, there was a lady who’s implant moved to her lungs. Again, another con is that it requires professional insertion and removal, and can result it irregular bleeding. It can sometimes also be defined behind the skin, depending on the way it’s moved.
A step up from implants are full on surgeries.
Sterilization is a special surgical modification than can be done on both men and women under anesthesia that permanently removes an individuals capability to reproduce. Sterilization can be completed through a variety of surgeries, including minimal invasive surgery.
There are two main types of sterilization:
- Vasectomy: male sterilization
- Tubal Ligation: female sterilization
In a vasectomy, the male vasa deferentia (plural of the vas deferens pathway that sperm go through to get to the prostrate gland to create semen) is cut and tied or sealed so that the sperm can’t enter the urethra duct.
The vasectomy has a 99% success rate in terms of contraception, though there can be errors and complications in terms of surgery. With a vasectomy, men can ejaculate, but the semen contains no sperm.
For women, the process is similar in the sense that a pathway is sealed off. In the tubual ligation, or “having your tubes tied”, the fallopian tubes are quite literally knotted so that egg follicles won’t reach any sperm, and no sperm can enter. It overall has the same implications as a vasectomy.
And, you’re now a contracexpert!
Contraception is not only used to prevent pregnancies, but also to treat a lot of different female specific diseases (which have no cure). Looking into this, we can see that there are essentially, three facets of disease detection that we need to factor into our workflow.
Diseases + Contraception
Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment are the most important, and once overlooked, aspects of female healthcare.
This is what our bucket list of the female healthcare future should look like, where A, B, and C are crossed off. As of right now, we’ve covered none of these bases. Diagnosis, disease prevention, and treatments are all struggling right now. We’re still trying to pick up the glass pieces that were shattered, and they seem to be cutting our hands. Even with femtech on the rise, we’re still at square 1, as our diagnosis process is built off of nearly a century of neglect of females in clinical trials, which is only being addressed by the NIH years later. But, we’re off on the right foot by making an effort.
Back to the three pillars of healthcare. Let’s take a deep dive into three gender-specific diseases that are extremely prevalent among women:
polycystic ovarian syndrome: Hormonal imbalances that lead to enlarged ovaries with cysts on them
menorrhagia: excessive bleeding during periods
endometriosis: where the endometrium painfully grows outside of the uterusT
Polycystic ovarian syndrome rages rampant among the female community, affecting 10% of all women globally. Not only is it a physical issue, but it can also lead to cosmetic ones, as it commonly results in increased acne and facial hair from hormonal symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no cure for it, it always requires diagnosis and lab tests, and this disease can be chronic — it lasts for multiple years up to a lifetime. A disease labeled “chronic” and “common” on Google that affects over 200,000 women per year has no cure, and only some treatments. This isn’t surprising, though. We’re not only deficit of primary care workers, but also those trying to strengthen the system as well. PCOS diagnosis is often mistaken.
Menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding, is an issue that I’d describe as treatable-ish. It’s definitely better managed that PCOS, but it’s not up to par. 1 or 2 in every 20 women have menorrhagia. Overall, diagnosis for this issue isn’t horrible, but partially because the symptoms are extremely observable. A main problem with menorrhagia is that it’s not typically properly screened for, and its therefore up to the patient to notice whether or not they bleed excessively, or if they’ve been changing tampons/pads abnormally The condition of endometriosis constantly goes misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed, and errors can potentially be life-threatening.
Finally, there’s endometriosis. This disease is not only extremely painful, but it’s symptoms and screenings can also lead to misdiagnosis, even in leading clinical and medical institutions. Despite being one of the leading causes of infertility, endometriosis diagnosis is diagnosed nearly 7 years late on average. Another patient study reports diagnostic delay of 8.6 years. 75.2% of patients reported being misdiagnosed with another physical health and/or mental health problem, and most frequently by gynecologists followed by general practitioners.
Looking into the prevention of all three diseases, we see that there are almost 0 to none preventative measures, somewhat except for menorrhagia. Because PCOS disrupts the menstrual cycle and can’t be prevented, most treatments involve just treating the symptoms. Mayo Clinic cites treatment options:
Menstrual Cycle regulation
- Combination contraceptive pills can reduce endometriosis/endometrial cancer because they decrease the production of androgen, a group of hormones that stimulate the growth of hair follicles. Skin patches and vaginal rings can also stop the excess hair growth, bleeding, and acne
- Dosages of progestin for 10 to 14 days each month or two can also help to complete and improve periods. Contraceptive methods such as progestin IUDs and mini contraceptive pills are optimal
Continuing to ovulate
- Clomiphene is a medication that’s estrogen modulating, which can promote ovulation, and treat infertility
- Letrozole/Femara is a breast cancer treatment that serve to stimulate ovaries to continue ovulation
- Metformin is a medication typically taken by type 2 diabetics to improve insulin resistance, and lowers insulin levels — this is a substitute to clomiphene to induce fertility
- Hormone injections such as gonadotropins may also be a solution
Hair growth reduction
- Oral contraceptives help to decrease androgen production, which will reduce the hair growth
- Spironolactone/Aldactone medication can block androgen’s skin effects, but can also cause birth defects, so it should be coupled with contraception for optimal results — this is not for women wanting or having pregnancy
- The medicinal cream Eflornithine/Vaniqa can help to slow facial hair growth, and it only works for women
- Electrolysis, or the breakdown of something using electricity is a therapy type where a needle that is inserted into each hair follow has current flow through it to damage and destroy the hair follicles. This is a progressive treatment, and may require multiple times
Treatments for menorrhagia are extremely limited. They’re dome completely by natural science, and there are no immediate proper guaranteed preventative measures. Heavy menstrual bleeding is said to have been prevented by eating vitamin-C rich foods, increased iron content, and eating blackstrap molasses which are an excellent source of these nutrients. Some over the counter pain relievers can help reduce excess blood loss from menstruation. This includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin, or aspirin.
Endometriosis is not preventable, but there are methods of decreasing the chance of it occurring by reducing estrogen content in the body so that the endometrium doesn’t overgrow. Contraception can help to do so, with pills, skin patches, and rings. Exercise for more than 4 hrs./week keeps low body fat percentages, with lowers estrogen content in the body. In addition, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake will prevent estrogen levels from being raised.
Looking at different treatment applications, their efficiency is extremely limited. Contraceptive combination pills are only an 80% efficient treatment for most PCOS symptoms, while NSAIDs like Advil are only 78% efficient for menorrhagia. Endometriosis treatments have the lowest calculated efficiency as treatments, different contraceptive methods being only 30% efficient.
Overall, though contraceptive efforts have completely revolutionized women’s lives from an educational and healthcare standpoint, there are still so many effects on their reproductive system that haven’t yet been assuaged. However, even with all of these diseases on the rise,
we’re seeing that by changing women’s healthcare, we’re changing the infrastructure of the female community entirely. We’re not just saving women, we’re creating a better socio-economy (because as we know, women are extremely economically fit, especially in corporate America).
Female Specific Issues → Black Female Specific Issues
Thanks to implicit and explicit biases in many countries, especially the US, coupled with the discrepancies in healthcare for women, black women are heavily affected by the all of the shortcomings in women’s healthcare.
- 84% of women with bacterial vaginosis reported not having systems, this led to neglect in studying the vaginal microbiome
- 20% of all women with yeast infections display no symptoms
- The effects of being asymptomatic led to many of their issues being ignored; this is exacerbated for black women — health conditions such as uterine fibroids receive very little attention or government funding for research
- Black women disproportionally experience infertility, stigmatization, and lack of access to fertility care
- Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related diseases
Let’s take a look into uterine fibroids just briefly. This is one of the most heavily recognized issues that affect women of color significantly.
Currently, the cause of uterine fibroids are unknown, but it is assumed to be hereditary and genetic. It affects over 50% of African-American women. It’s important to note that uterine fibroids are not carcinogenic. Fibroids are affected by estrogen and progesterone, and during menopause, when less of these hormones are produced, they shrink.
As aforementioned, fibroids are a big problem in women’s healthcare due to their evasive nature; not all women experience symptoms when they have fibroids. This is largely dependent on the size and location of the fibroids themselves, as they increase blood flow to the uterus and have impacts on fertility and can possibly even cause miscarriages, or the loss of the fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Due to the nature of fibroids, they can cause a lot of physical issues, like constipation, back pains, excess urination, thumping in the abdomen, painful intercourse, and more. Fibroids are also a cause menorrhagia, postcoital hemorrhaging, and dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea: excess period pain and heavy cramping
Postcoital bleeding: bleeding after sexual interactions
Before going over types of uterine fibroids, let’s overview uterine structure, which describe the different layers and areas of the uterus.
The perimetrium is the outer serous layer of the the uterus that helps to reduce friction by releasing a lubricant that creates outer moisture. It’s also apart of the peritonium that overlays pelvic organs.
The myometrium, as the name denotes from the prefix myo-, deals with muscle. It describes a layer of smooth muscle tissue of the uterus between the perimetrium and the endometrium/uterine lining.
The fundus is actually a general anatomy term for a part of a hollow organ that is farthest from the opening of it, which in this case is the vagina, and the fundus is the very top. The size of this area can help to determine pregnancy growth rates.
The uterine cavity is the triangular area inside of the uterus, which is formed by the uterus and the fundus, which creates the internal orface. The uterine cavity allows for sperm to travel towards egg from sex, which eventually leads to fertilization, pregnancy, then birth!
There are three types of uterine fibroids that affect these different areas of the uterus:
- Subserosal; these are fibroids that grow on the perimetrium. They cause menorrhagia and pelvic pressures, inflammation, and pains.
- Intramural; these are fibroids that grow on the myometrium, and can cause hemorrhaging (bleeding), pain during intercourse, and extreme uterine pressure.
- Submucosal; these are the ‘hanging’ fibroids that are position inside of the uterine cavity. These can cause proliferated bleeding, odd hemorrhaging cycles and/or random bleeding, and even postsexual bleeding.
These types of fibroids can be diagnosed in a variety of different ways, including with methods similar to that of cancer screening methods.
- MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is one of the best imaging techniques that use conceptual physics to determine the morphology, location, and amount of fibroids in the uterus. They can also differentiate tumors from carcinogenic tumors like leiomyosarcomas (sarcomas on the uterine muscle).
- Ultrasounds: Sonograms are great ways to identify and analyze fibroids. They use sound ways in order to generate high quality images of the uterus. There is also a sonohysterogram/saline infused sonogram that uses a fluid-filled uterus combined with sonograms to get better imaging of the uterus.
- Hysteroscopy: Inserting a small camera inside of the uterine cavity for live visuals.
- CT Scan: Computerized tomography uses different X-Ray angles and computational techniques to determine and analyze the presence of fibroids
- Pelvic Examinations: This is a physical analysis of the uterus through biological testing and physical therapy and touch
Fibroids have a variety of examination methods and medical treatments through contraceptives and surgeries. Ultimately, the healthcare system has been unable to completely handle them, and neglect of minorities with this issue has led to heavily increased risk for black women.
3. Innovations and Developments
Even with the upsetting notion of there being so many different issues in the treatment of women, we still have the auxiliary support of femtech and biohacking for the healthcare industry, giving prospects of reform in the healthcare industry to make it equitable for females. The good in this situation is that we have the opportunity to audit a system that’s so desperately in need of a revolution. Thus, I wanted to highlight an important development in microbiota that is apart of this advent.
Juno Bio is a biotechnology company building comprehensive vaginal microbiome — that is, the combination of bacteria/flora in the female vagina area — test, where users can learn about the specific bacteria in their vagina, and get personalized advice from a vaginal expert. The product offers and comprehensive platform where women can also view their specific bacterial composition in their vaginal microbiome.
Essentially, their test takes a swab sample from the user’s vaginal area, stores it with proper sanitation, and sends it back to Juno, and they isolate and extract all microbial DNA from the test to determine which types of bacteria are inside. Based on the microbial contents visualized through the test results, users can discern whether or not their vaginal bacteria community is healthy. Juno’s approach is unique as they not only offer community-based support, but they also achieve semantic simplicity in describing the types of bacteria that are determined to be present from the tests.
Juno streamlines their personalized findings for customers through a web application and dashboard, an example of which can be seen here. They also sell their test kit (and the accompany software) on their website for $149.
The concept of the vaginal microbiome might sound similar to the gut microbiome, or maybe its not familiar at all, which wouldn’t be surprising considering the lack of emphasis on it in conventional clinical systems. Well, good thing your clicked on this article!
If you’d like to learn more about your gut microbiome, check out this article I wrote.
The vaginal microbiome is a significant determinant on disease susceptibility for women, and a neglect of care towards it can lead to bacterial vaginosis, which affects 1 in 10 women. This is largely due to the fact that women aren’t necessarily aware of how to take care of the bacterial amalgamations in their vaginal area, much less the fact that they exist.
There are many other technologies that are being developed aside from Juno Bio as well (including some of my and my team’s own!).
- The G.U.T. Application (Microbiota health) by Okezue Bell, Liesl Angijjono, Rania Hashim, Sora Shirai
- Notion-based biohacking MVP by Okezue Bell
Notion is one of my all time favorites. Notion is an all-in-one productivity tool that basically combines all of Google’s writing services (Sheets, Docs, Sites), and crams them into one, awesome web-app/mobile and desktop application. Not to mention their unique organizational features. Notion is unique!
- Smart Menstrual Cups by June
- Breast cancer, endometriosis, etc. disease detection using AI by me and 10,000,000 other people
- Nanotech based menstrual pads by Chandra Shekhar Sharma
- Period tracking by Flo and Apple
And many more. These represent the future of saving 1/2 of the population, and revitalizing a demographic that’s so heavily untapped!
As we begin to reach what will be a turning point in the lives of billions, we reach a crossroads at the most exciting times in history:
Will we undo the damage that’s been done?
What will we create for the 50.8?
Before you go…
Thanks so much for being curious and actually reading through this whole article. It took a lot of time and energy to make, so I’m really glad you made it through! If you liked it, you may like this too! 👇
Biohacking: Not a Crime, the Future
As someone who loves the intersection between technology and biology, when the term biohacking comes up, I get super…
My name’s Okezue, a developer and researcher obsessed with learning and building things, especially when it involves any biology or computer science. Check out my socials here, or contact me @firstname.lastname@example.org.
I write something new every day/week, so I hope to see you again soon! Make sure you comment, and leave some claps on this too — especially if you liked it! I sure enjoyed writing it!
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