What To Look For in a Women's Health Wearable (Plus, Our Favs!)
Women and men are not biologically the same.
At this point, it’s probably clear to many of us that women are not small men. We are biologically different, meaning we have different needs and focal points when it comes to our health.
This is not to say one sex is better than the other, just different.
Women operate off of two biological rhythms: their circadian rhythm (24-hour cycle) and infradian rhythm (~28-day menstrual cycle). Meanwhile, men operate off their circadian rhythm only.
This means women’s hormones fluctuate week after week as they enter different stages of their menstrual cycle, which creates routinely changing needs in how they work, exercise, eat, live, socialize, rest, and more.
When you’re in tune with where you’re at in your cycle by using a wearable that helps you track, you can appropriately cater to your needs week over week. By learning to work with your body instead of against it, you don’t just feel better, but your body actually operates better.
Women and men have different cortisol sensitivities
Women also tend to be more sensitive to cortisol than men.
This is not to say cortisol is “bad,” especially given its role in our everyday survival. Our bodies' natural rise in cortisol in the morning and into the afternoon is what helps keep us awake and alert.
Research has suggested that women tend to be more cortisol-sensitive because they:
Have a more pronounced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is responsible for regulating our stress response and has downstream implications in how well our other hormones function
Experience changes in cortisol levels throughout the menstrual cycle, with higher levels being in the luteal phase
Have a higher body fat percentage due to their role as child bearers, which affects cortisol production and metabolism (higher body fat % = greater capacity for cortisol production)
Knowing this about our bodies as women, we have to be more dialed in with our stress management, which certain wearables can play a significant role in by helping us prioritize ample rest, recovery, and sleep.
Women may need more sleep than men
Lastly, some research has suggested that women actually need more sleep than men, though this doesn’t apply across the board since everybody is extremely different, of course.
The current hypothesis is that on average, women need ~20 minutes more sleep than men a night because of the ongoing hormonal changes they experience due to their menstrual cycle, as well as differences in their brain structure.
It’s suggested that women tend to have “busier” minds than men, which can deplete them more readily, and sometimes make it more challenging to get to sleep at night.
Having a wearable that gives you personalized sleep recommendations based on your body’s active needs can be an amazing way to act on the self-care that’s necessary for you to show up as your best daily self.
What to look for in a wellness wearable
1. Research and validation
Do they have studies on their website that showcase how their product has been put to the test in a scientifically valid method and what the results were?
Do they only cite external research (i.e., other people’s published research) to prove how great their product is or have they done their own internal research alongside an institution?
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2. Comfort, fit, and style
Is this something you’re actually going to want to wear every day, including while sleeping? Does the form factor make sense for your lifestyle and what type of exercise do you most often do?
3. Recommendations from medical professionals and their community
What do reputable physicians (including potentially your own) have to say about the product? Why do they like it over other options? What are the customer testimonials like?
What’s the ratio of good to bad? What do the average, top, and bottom reviews all have to say, and how do those stack up against your personal priorities and non-negotiables?
4. Women’s specific features
Do they have women-specific features beyond the basics of heart rate, sleep, and activity tracking such as menstrual cycle tracking via body temperature changes, different modes based on where you’re at in life (e.g., trying to conceive, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause), menstrual cycle coaching, fertility tracking, etc.
Any company that’s already invested in women’s health product innovation demonstrates they’re committed to continuing to push the boundaries so they can further serve women in a more tailored way.
Our top women’s health wearable picks
Starting at $299, plus a $5.99 monthly membership fee.
The Gen3 is Oura’s latest ring version, equipped with three easy-to-understand scores (Readiness, Sleep, Activity) that help you understand where your body is at across recovery, sleep, and activity, and what your active needs are.
Gen3 also arms you with blood oxygen sensing SpO2 insights (helps pinpoint any breathing disturbances), live workout and daytime heart rate readings, menstrual cycle predictions, nap detection to account for extra Zzzs, automatic activity detection to record all your movements, guided meditations, sleep sounds, and more.
Oura comes in a seamless ring form factor, so if you don’t like having something on your wrist when you sleep and move throughout your day, this could be an amazing option for you.
2. Whoop 4.0
The Whoop band is free (unless you decide to upgrade to a different color or style), then you pay $30 a month for access to all your personal data and health insights.
The Whoop strap 4.0 is a screen-free band that’s designed to be worn on your wrist 24/7. Their durable, SuperKnit bands are built for flexibility, comfort, water, sweat, and everything else you encounter in your everyday life.
The 4.0 includes a haptic alarm that gently vibrates to wake you up at an optimal time based on your current sleep needs and where you’re at in your sleep cycle.
Similar to Oura, Whoop measures your body temperature, blood oxygen levels, heart rate in and outside of workouts, sleep, strain, and more — then translates these data points into easy-to-read daily, weekly, and monthly insights.
Whoop also has menstrual cycle coaching and a behavioral journal where you can keep track of how your daily actions and choices are impacting your body. In your journal, you can also toggle on/off different reproductive life stages such as trying to conceive, tracking ovulation, pregnancy, postpartum, and peri/post-menopause.
Whoop is a great option if you’re active and want a wearable that’s going to meet you where you’re at in your reproductive life stage.
$149.95 (comes with 6 months of free premium membership, followed by $9.99 a month thereafter)
The Fitbit Charge is designed for whole body health and stress management with its ECG-connected app for in-depth heart rate analysis, EDA sensor that provides you with a holistic stress management score, and haptic alarm for peaceful wakeups after you’ve completed your last sleep cycle of the night.
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An EDA sensor measures electrodermal activity through changes in the size and activity of your sweat glands, which undergo shifts based on your mental and physical responses to stress.
The Fitbit Charge 5 also provides you with SpO2 (blood oxygen) and HRV (heart rate variability) readings, recovery and sleep insights, heart rate zone breakdowns from your workouts, and more.
The Fitbit Charge 5 is a great option if you want insight into how you’re managing stress on a daily basis and what to do about it.
Starting at $399
The Apple Watch Series 8 is the first watch series built with a temperature sensor that enables advanced menstrual tracking insights, including ovulation timing, and notifications on irregular or prolonged periods. Apple, being a leader in data privacy, is keen on end-to-end encryption that’s controlled by your face and, or touch ID so you never have to worry about your reproductive data getting into the hands of someone else.
Similar to Fitbit, the Series 8 watch also has an ECG app that provides you with data similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram you’d get at your doctor’s office, in addition to blood oxygen readings, fall detection, personalized heart rate zone tracking during workouts, and medication logging.
Evie hasn’t launched yet but will be this September 2023.
It’ll be the first wearable designed specifically for women and their entire health journey from menstruation to menopause and beyond.
Single to Oura, Evie comes in a stylish and sleek form factor which is great for most women since it doesn’t interfere with other jewelry they’re wearing.
Their primary focus is delivering medical-grade data and offering in-depth menstrual cycle analysis beyond the basics of tracking. They help you monitor your symptoms to further understand the nature and timing of your individual cycle, including ovulatory windows, length of each stage, care management, and mood tracking.
Similar to other wearables, they also offer heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory, SpO2, sleep quality, and activity insights.
Bonus for Stress Management and Sleep
6. Apollo Neuro
Starting at $349
Unlike other wearables, Apollo actually does something to your body, instead of monitoring it and reflecting back insights to you. In other words, it actively improves your sleep and stress, rather than tracking it.
Apollo utilizes low-frequency sound waves felt as soothing vibrations to restore nervous system balance and thereby, improve sleep, reduce stress, and improve mood.
Born out of neuroscience research at the University of Pittsburgh, Apollo’s technology has been tested across thousands of users in the clinic and the real world through 7 complete clinical trials with 9 more currently underway. Their results on average have shown a 40% lowering in feelings of stress and anxiety, 19% more time spent in deep sleep, and 25% more focus and concentration.
Apollo has 7 different modes that generate stronger effects the more you use it over time, including Unwind, Fall Asleep, Calm, Focus, Recover, Energy, and Social, all designed to improve how you feel, whenever you feel.
Caroline McMorrow is a Content Strategist at Rescripted.