The wearable tech that's boosting women’s health and fitness

All the connected ladies, all the connected ladies

Whether's it's fitness trackers that actually fit women's bodies or tech to address specific health issues that only women face, more and more companies are building wearables to help keep women healthy.

Fitbit-style technology doesn't have to be restricted to walking and running tracking either. You can find smart fitness clothing for women and tech to track fertility levels. There are even devices that enable women to track parts of their life as thoroughly as any medical tech once did, ensuring they know exactly when something unusual is happening to their body.

Read next: The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

We take a look at some of the most innovative trackers and gadgets both available now and coming soon, that are geared specifically for women's health and fitness needs.

Ava bracelet

This wearable falls under many categories including fertility tech and pregnancy tech but it's also helpful for women who want to closely follow their hormonal cycles. Lea von Bidder, co-founder of Ava, has said that the company wants to help women track their bodies better.

Based on a clinical study at the University Hospital of Zurich, the makers of the sensor packed bracelet – which is worn during sleep – claim it can detect 5.3 fertile days in a women's menstrual cycle with 89% accuracy while detecting the wearer's chances of conceiving each month, compared with no tracker at all and trying once a week.

The latest news from Ava is that the health tech startup is adding a new feature that is designed to detect if and when you are ovulating. Plus the University of Zurich has launched a study into detecting infections during pregnancy using the connected band.

Read this: Ava's pulse rate pregnancy tracking study explored

$199, avawomen.com

Embr Wave

The wearable tech that's boosting women's health and fitness

This is a unisex wearable but one we think will be particularly popular with women. The heating and cooling bracelet is designed by an MIT spin-off startup that has figured out how to warm and cool one spot on your body – your wrist – via 16 temperature intensities in order to make you feel more comfortable whether that's in the office, on public transport or out and about on a hot day.

Read this: We speak to Embr Labs about tweaking body temperature

The Embr Wave raised over $600,000 on Kickstarter and its backers include Intel. As a pleasant surprise for a crowdfund, the team has already shipped 500 bracelets and is on track for the Feb 2018 shipments. You can pre-order a Wave now for shipping in July 2018.

$299, embrlabs.com

Willow

The wearable tech that's boosting women's health and fitness

Willow's hands free, connected breast pumps debuted in early 2017, designed to confront stigmas around breastfeeding. The two tear drop shaped pumps will fit underneath a regular bra and aims to be much quieter than traditional breast pumps too. Plus there are two separate dishwasher-safe parts for easy cleaning.

As for the smarts, Willow connects to an app (iPhone only for now) which displays milk volume, pumping time and past pumping sessions to help new mothers manage their schedules. Willow is on sale now – it's not cheap at around twice the cost of other electric breast pumps, but depending on what you need, it might be worth it.

$479.99, willowpump.com

L'Oréal My UV Patch and UV Sense

The wearable tech that's boosting women's health and fitness

Not strictly just for women but clearly designed with us in mind, L'Oréal's latest UV sensing wearable is teeny tiny, so teeny tiny that it can stick to your fingernail. Or your watch or the side of your sunglasses.

The 9mm wide and 2mm thick UV Sense will cost around $50 when it launches in 2019. The idea is you buy one sensor, once you've chosen the design from options for women, men and 'millenials', then it sends data on how much UV exposure you are getting to your smartphone via NFC.

The concept is based on L'Oréal's existing My UV Patch, a stick-on temporary tattoo that L'Oréal skincare brand La Roche-Posay been giving out for free with interesting results – 30% of people said they wore more sunscreen as a result and more importantly in the fight against skin cancer, 60% found they had less sunburn.

Free/TBC, laroche-posay.us

Spire smart swimsuit

The wearable tech that's boosting women's health and fitness

Spire and Swim.com have teamed up for a range of smart swimsuits for women and men which use Spire's clip-on Health Tag to track your swimming sessions.

There's no charging and the tag, which is stuck safely to the suit with a special adhesive, will automatically start tracking your activity when you hit the pool. The data is then fed to Swim.com's app on your phone for analysis, so there's no real time feedback, but this still looks super useful.

Due to go on sale in late March 2018, you can sign up for updates now. The smart swimwear will cost $30 more than the regular pieces when it arrives.

$TBC, swimoutlet.com

Elvie

Pelvic floor exercises are beneficial for all women, improving bladder and bowel control, as well as helping when recovering from childbirth. Elvie is a tampon-like device that provides five-minute workouts for your pelvic floor muscles, in conjunction with a smartphone app. It's simple to set up, requiring users to choose a program and strength rating, before completing kegel exercises. It's also possible to use anywhere (if you feel comfortable doing so), thanks to its discreet nature.

Read this: Living with Elvie – a review of the pelvic floor trainer

The device adapts to each woman's body and 'skill level', gradually building up in difficulty as your kegel muscles develop further. Being able to track progress encourages regular sessions, as well as gives insight into how effective the exercises are when it comes to rebuilding one's core strength. It's essentially a Fitbit for your pelvic floor.

$197, elvie.com | Amazon

OhMiBod Lovelife krush

A lighter take on pelvic floor exercises, the Lovelife krush has two distinct goals in mind. Developed by OhMiBod – best known for the original iPod vibrator – it's part pelvic floor exercise gadget, part sexual health device. The exerciser contains built-in sensors that provide vibrations to remind users when to squeeze, relax, and breathe when completing kegel exercises, rather than having to rely on audio cues.

Read more: We speak with OhMiBod CEO about sex tech

The supplementary app tracks daily activity, along with a rep count. Complete various training goals, and the 'Go Play' part of the app unlocks special vibration patterns as part of its sexual intimacy package.

$149, lovelifetoys.com | Amazon

OMsignal OMbra

OMsignal's OMbra is a smart bra that adapts to your body and workout. On a practical level, it offers stretchable fabric that absorbs pressure and reduces stress on your back and shoulders. It also tracks your performance throughout the day without any input. Without the need to carry a smartphone at all times, OMbra records exercise data for up to 10 workouts or a full day of continuous use, before needing recharging. Data is then automatically sent back to a supported iOS device.

Read this: Would you wear a smart sports bra?

Feedback is provided on heart rate, cadence and impact, as well as breathing rate, ensuring that users know exactly how they're performing on their daily run. A personalised burn rate also highlights how far you're pushing yourself when working out, or whether to pull it back and take it easy.

$169, omsignal.com

Livia

This gadget promises to be the off switch for menstrual cramps. A debilitating condition for many sufferers, drug based pain relief doesn't always help as much as it should. Livia aims to close 'the pain gates', through stimulating the nerves involved and blocking the pain signals from being sent to your brain.

Read this: Our living with Livia review

Looking similar to a TENS machine, the device fits into the waistband of your pants, with two electrodes placed on your abdomen to 'kill' the pain. It's designed to be subtle and easy to apply with instant pain relief. There is reportedly no risk of building a tolerance or suffering from side-effects either. In testing we found that it was distracting, certainly, but tricky to tell if it was truly delivering pain relief.

The device charges via USB so keeping well stocked with batteries isn't an issue. A full charge lasts for about 15 hours.

$149.99, mylivia.com | Amazon

Looncup

Looncup is a form of wearable sensor for your period. It tracks menstruation volume levels, analyzing how healthy your periods are. Colour variations are tracked via an RGB sensor, showing any discrepancies that occur from month to month. Such insight can determine if a doctor's visit is required, or if you're overly stressed for some reason. It's made from hypoallergenic silicone, and is toxin free, meaning it's gentler to wear than a pad or tampon.

The smart cup only needs changing about every 12 hours, with the accompanying app informing you with alerts when it's 50% and 70% full. Looncup offers a battery life of about six months and is inexpensive compared to other conventional options.

Looncup started life on Kickstarter but has had a rocky road since. It was originally due to ship way back in January 2016 but has been hit by delays. The campaign has been refunding backers but the team is still posting updates, the last one going up in late January 2018.

$40, kickstarter.com

iTBra

Still in development, the iTBra is a smart bra that will detect the early signs of breast cancer. The bra uses heat sensors to measure the woman's circadian temperature, detecting if there have been any sudden changes which might indicate a problem or abnormal development within the breast cells. An examination takes between two and 24 hours, but all that's required from the woman is to wear the bra. It's less intrusive and embarrassing than a physical exam, and something that can be easily accomplished while going about one's daily business. Results are then sent to the wearer's smartphone or PC for later consultation.

Read this: The real Wonderbra helping women with breast cancer

Trials took place with Ohio State University and the Medicine X group at Stanford, with its detection rate of 87% proving higher than mammograms at 83%. Cyrcadia Health plans to launch the ITbra technology in early 2018 starting in Asia.

$TBC, cyrcadiahealth.com


Pilldrill

In order for birth control medication to be effective, it needs to be taken every day without fail. Pilldrill is a pillbox for the 21st century, offering clear and timely alerts any time a dose is due. Scan the pill container, and Pilldrill tracks what tablets needs taking, and when, meaning it'll work well for numerous other medications too.

Besides a clear audio and visual alert, it works in conjunction with an app, allowing you to create a medication schedule, and receive regular reminders and notifications through your phone. It's also possible to scan a 'Mood Cube' to log how you're feeling, highlighting if any unusual mood swings have occurred, proving useful when looking out for adverse side effects while switching birth control methods.

$199, pilldrill.com


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1 Comment

  • Eve says:

    Honestly, these sound awful.

    The Ava bracelet, also known as the Ava Bracelet Woman Tracker which just sounds like you get it when you're on parole, has a poor reputation.  For starters, the wrist is not a good place to track body temperature, which is why no one's produced a wrist thermometer, let alone with the fine degree of accuracy needed for detecting ovulation.  The wrist band is apparently very poorly made, falls off or even breaks regularly, and reviews of the app mostly say that it is impossible to get it to sync.  Ava claim that they can predict when you enter your fertile phase through temperature, which is nonsense.  Basal temperature alters at ovulation and again at menstruation, and if relevant, during pregnancy.  It's cervical fluid which indicates the start of the fertile phase.  I have been reading up on fertility wearable tech and none of it sounds ready for market yet.

    The Looncup is known to be terrible, as it's unbearably uncomortable, doesn't function well as a menstrual cup, and does not provide useful information.

    People who wear bras wear them every day and need quite a lot of them due to washing them.  The price for a smartbra makes that unreasonable, especially since they could far more easily invent a device to be tucked into the bra.

    There are plenty of apps already to remind people to take their pills, you don't need them built into the pillbox.  Reasons for needing a much higher level of reminding (and I speak as someone with memory problems) may include dementia, not being a woman.

    The Livia appears to be a standard TENS machine (they all offer programmes with variable wave shape and frequency these days, it's needed to avoid tolerance, and putting them on the base of your spine as a pain gate has been recommended for years) with badly shaped electrodes that are more likely to snag on clothing, don't appear to be replaceable (electrodes wear out fast), and don't have an option for sensitive skin (non-sensitive electrodes can cause nasty burns).  Oh, and it's in girly colours.  Yay.

    If you're high risk for breast cancer, I imagine your doctors will want proper regular screening, and if you're not, you shouldn't be fretting about it so much that you try to get screening built into your bra.  Cancer really isn't wearable tech stuff.

    I am excited to see where wearable tech will go, and I think there are definite possibilities with temperature sensors and such, but right now the options tend to be "hey, you can get a very expensive strap with blind on it, because girls all like bling!"  And I don't.  I want smartwatches to start being produced in sizes that actually fit smaller wrists, rather than barely fitting onto men's wrists, and apps that can interpret your data in ways that include hormonal systems, which will could already do.  Right now you have to do things like manually copy Fitbit data into other apps, and the analysis is far from sophisticated.

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