The BBC Digital Health Editor, Michelle Roberts, has, today Friday 10th June, published an article challenging the performance of shop-bought menopause test kits ‘Shop-bought menopause tests not worth it, women advised’. The article states that urine tests are not predictive enough to tell whether a woman is going through the phase when her periods will stop. It raises the question if women are doing it right when buying menopause tests from shops for about £10 for a pack of two.
Responding to the article, Sarah Bolt, Founder and CEO of Forth said:
“Women are not getting the help they need from their GP. This is why commercial companies have responded to fill this gap. No test alone can diagnose perimenopause but neither can any one symptom. Using symptoms in conjunction with the right sort of testing is providing women with the data and science they are looking for.
“That said, current products, especially ones just based on urine samples, just one hormone or on just one day are not good enough and I share Michelle Roberts’ frustration about this. But there are ways to solve it. Using a blood sample kit that is, in itself, far more reliable than urine kits is one aspect. Testing across all four female hormones and not just FSH is another. Taking multiple samples across the cycle and using that data to map how hormones fluctuate across the cycle is the third. Blood samples are the gold standard which is why, supported by a Government innovation grant, we have developed a groundbreaking hormone mapping solution which combines blood analysis with mathematical modelling to predict how a woman’s hormones fluctuate.
“MyFORM™ not only tests all four hormones but also uses AI to map how an individual woman’s hormones fluctuate during her unique cycle, providing women with reliable scientific data about their hormonal health, which has until now been unattainable. And this doesn’t just help those of us who are menopausal or peri-menopausal, it helps any woman who believes their health may be impacted by a hormone imbalance.
One of the UK’s leading endocrinologists and Forth’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nicky Keay, who is scheduled to deliver a talk at the British Menopause Society’s conference about hormone mapping, said:
“Female hormone mapping provides women with the scientific intelligence to join up the dots for themselves and fully understand their symptoms and how they feel from the patterns in their Female Hormone Mapping report. Women have been crying out for this scientific insight for years. Perimenopause symptoms can be debilitating, finding out the reason for such symptoms is empowering. We help women take a holistic approach, by not just looking directly for the medicalised solution, its about overall wellbeing and the factors that might most impact overall hormonal health. Every women’s personal hormone orchestra is unique and women should be treated as individuals based on personal data.”
Case study: MyFORM™ and the perimenopause
At each stage in the ovarian journey, it is important for women to make informed choices and MyFORM™ helps to do this. Katie Murray, a 52-year-old active sportswoman, was focused on looking after herself with good nutrition and balancing the demands of her sport with the demands of her family life.
Katie had been taking a low-level dose of Sertraline for low mood and anxiety for a couple of years, and at that time felt that her periods were having a detrimental effect on her sports and training, together with low moods, and night sweats and daily hot flushes. She did not want to simply up the dosage as she was worried about dependency and other potential side effects; also many of her hormonal symptoms were pertinent to the initial prescribing of the anti-depressants. Katie needed a better and further understanding of where she was in terms of menopause and her general ovarian health.
The data from the test gave Katie easy-to-understand, precise data to map out exactly at what levels her hormones were over her cycle and found that she would be more than eligible for HRT to relieve all her symptoms.
MyFORM™ for optimising team and professional performance
Studies have been conducted to assess the clinical value of applying AI techniques to model menstrual cycle hormones and deliver personalised hormone health reports to professional female dancers at The Scottish Ballet and footballers at Manchester United. The participants completed an online health questionnaire specific to their profession. Over the study period, participants recorded wellbeing and training metrics with menstrual cycles and blood tests. At regular virtual clinical interviews findings were discussed and personalised advice was given. The athletes reported that this personalised approach was very helpful. From the clinical point of view the AI modelling of menstrual cycle hormones proved insightful in identifying subtle, but clinical significant hormone mistiming, which might have otherwise been missed by menstrual tracking alone. Optimising the hormone health of the individual athlete supports a stronger team.
The movement to bridge the female data gap
As a female founder, Sarah has always been part of the movement to highlight and bridge the female gender data and health inequality gap. For decades, medical research has been based on data from the male body, approximately 50% of the global population, however, we now know that women’s bodies respond in very different ways to drugs and disease. This research and application gap is starting to be recognised and thankfully the landscape is starting to change.
Forth’s contribution to the female health intelligence mission is their ground-breaking solution MyFORM™, a female hormone mapping test borne out of frustration with the current hormone testing solution (day three blood testing). This assumes all women are the same and gives both women and clinicians little insight as to whether the sex steroid hormones were fluctuating in the expected pattern.
Keay N. Hormone Intelligence for Female Dancers, Athletes and Exercisers British Journal of Sport and Exercise Medicine https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2021/06/28/hormone-intelligence-for-female-dancers-athletes-and-exercisers/
Keay N, Lanfear M, Francis G. Clinical application of monitoring indicators of female dancer health, including the application of artificial intelligence in female hormone networks https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.09.27.21264119v1 Under review with International Journal of Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
Keay N, Craghill E, Francis G. Female football-specific energy availability questionnaire and menstrual cycle hormone monitoring https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.10.29.21265667v1 In press with Sports Injuries and Medicine journal