The health tech every woman should have

Mobile devices can now offer real insight into how, and why, your body is working the way it is

If there is one thing that we know about mobile devices, it’s that they are so much more than a simple communication device these days. But in the past couple of years, they have also emerged as a complement to health services.

The concept of mHealth services has been kicked around for a while, with everything from blood glucose monitors to blood pressure devices using mobile devices to record results and communicate them. Now we have initiatives such as ResearchKit, a platform that enables doctors and research staff to carry out studies with patients using their mobile phones, and devices that measure everything from heart rate and blood pressure to mapping out your menstrual cycle and all that it entails.

There are some devices that just exist seemingly for the sake of technology – the bluetooth-enabled pregnancy test springs immediately to mind – but there are others that can offer real insight into how, and why, your body is working the way it is.

Fertility trackers

If you thought fertility trackers – those apps that get pushed on you by targeted ads as soon as they get even a whiff of a long-term relationship from your social media profile – were just about babies and periods, you would be wrong. That’s their main function, true, but the data you are tracking while using them could also uncover further health issues.


Most of the apps give you the ability to log symptoms such as digestive issues or cramps, trying to build a picture of your symptoms that it could later use to compile a picture of your menstrual cycle.

Changes in body temperature could indicate other medical conditions, such as a thyroid problem or underlying infection.

Apps such as Glow and Clue can prove a useful mine of information if you are recording symptoms and later need details during medical exams.

Even the thermometers are getting more high tech. Kindara’s app works hand in hand with a thermometer called Wink that syncs with the app to record your body temperature automatically.

Heart rate monitors

Heart rate monitors are creeping their way into everyday fitness trackers, from the UA Band to the Apple Watch. It’s meant to keep an eye on your resting heart rate – and indicator of health – or keep track of your effort during workouts. But they can also reveal problems with your heart rate that you weren’t aware of.

The Apple Watch, in particular, has already been credited with saving at least one man, who was having a heart attack, and a teenager who had an underlying medical condition, all by detecting abnormal heart rates.

Of course, heart rate monitors in some wearable devices are not medical grade and results would warrant a closer look. The most recent news from this area concerns Fitbit, which has found itself the subject of legal action in the US over claims that its fitness trackers’ built-in heart rate monitors are not accurate.


The idea that a strong pelvic floor is vital for woman has been battered into most of us from a relatively young age. It’s important for things like being able to sneeze and not accidentally wetting yourself, and keeping all your lower organs where they should be. If you’ve had a baby, everyone will lecture you on the benefits of keeping your muscles in tip top shape, usually while a baby is aiming a kick at your bladder, and most of the healthcare workers you meet in the days and weeks after will be very interested in how things are going down there. Incidentally, strong pelvic floor muscles can also be of benefit to men, but no one makes that point often – or strongly – enough.

So most of the products that are available are, inevitably, aimed at women. Like the Elvie, which is a portable device that you link with your smartphone and it will track just how good a workout you’re giving the old kegels. It’s geared towards educating women about how to exercise their kegels correctly in short bursts of five minutes or so. Let’s face it, you can’t watch someone to get the perfect form, can you?

Ohmibod, meanwhile, has the Lovelife Krush which, although it sounds painful, actually just measures the pressure and endurance of your kegel muscles as you grip the device. It connects to an app on your phone over bluetooth and guides you through the process.

Breast check

Picking up signs of breast cancer early is important for effective treatment of the disease. That’s why health organisations have conducted a campaign aimed at encouraging women to get to know their own body, and check regularly for lumps. But there are some devices in development that claim to be able to help pinpoint potential problems.

Researchers at Colombia National University are working on a high-tech bra that would help flag anything you should get checked out by a professional. It does it through infrared technology that monitors temperature.

If it finds something abnormal, a small red light will alert you to get checked out. The device is still a way off hitting the market, and it would be designed to work alongside the traditional methods of screening, rather than instead of them, but it could prove to be another weapon in the war against cancer.