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In this ESRC IAA funded knowledge exchange fellowship, Dr Alexandra Alvergne will work with the digital health company BioWink GmbH to empower women with the means to acquire knowledge of their own bodies with technology.

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In today’s world, women’s reproductive lives are highly medicalised. From the start of the menstrual periods to the transition to menopause, from sexual behaviour to pregnancies and childbirth, women’s reproductive lives are not in their hands. Any deviation from ‘the norm’ has tended to be seen as a biological problem, a disorder or a pathology that requires medical attention. Without adequate knowledge, women are not able to find their own solutions to these kinds of issues.  This means they are left to depend entirely on doctors and other medical authorities, which may lead to anxiety, feelings of guilt and even unnecessary treatment.

To help women take control of their own bodies, BioWink GmbH has built a period tracker app called Clue. Clue allows women to track their menstrual cycles themselves.  In this project, Dr Alvergne will work with BioWink GmbH to provide information to women through Clue.  She will bring together insights from anthropological and biological research to show how a woman’s life context (generational, social, cultural, biological) shapes the expression and experience of PMS.  It is hoped that this new information will show women that deviating from ‘the norm’ and having a ‘syndrome’ do not really capture what women experience before their periods.

Dr Alvergne will also work with several BioWink GmbH teams to compare different methods of recruitment of participants into research projects, including the use of apps like Clue.  This part of the project will address questions like, what kind of research do Clue users want and what is the best way to engage with them.

This ESRC IAA knowledge exchange project will bring science to women to empower them about their bodily experience.

Dr Alexandra Alvergne is Associate Professor in Biocultural Anthropology in Oxford University’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, part of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

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