Fitbit has announced a new female-health tracking feature, to help women track their menstrual cycle, view their estimated fertility window, and better understand their overall health. To gain insight into female-health tracking and its implications, we talk to Heba Shaheed, CEO of The Pelvic Expert, which offers online programs for pregnancy, motherhood, pelvic pain and period problems. Heba’s solutions combine hormone nutrition, pelvic floor fitness, and self-care.
Recently, Heba partnered with Fitbit to announce its female-health tracking to the world. She has more than seven years’ experience in physiotherapy, nutrition and exercise, and has proudly supported more than 2,000 women on their journey to better health and wellbeing.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a female health expert.
I experienced female health problems throughout my teens and now in my adult life, from irregular periods to severe period pain, which later became persistent pelvic pain. In the search for solutions, I stumbled upon a specialist physiotherapy area called women’s health and pelvic health physiotherapy.
I made it my mission to learn everything about women’s health through postgraduate courses, nutrition certifications, pain neuroscience and therapeutic exercise training, specifically in the areas of women’s health.
I’ve worked in Sydney for more than five years and have helped over 2,000 women with pelvic health problems, such as endometriosis, pregnancy, pelvic pain, birth injury, bladder control problems and constipation. I’ve now moved away from having a physical practice to providing online support and programs for women around Australia and throughout the world.
What was your intention in founding The Pelvic Expert?
After personally experiencing the lack of reliable information on women’s health and solutions to pelvic health issues, I founded The Pelvic Expert to bridge this gap. We address the three main problems in women’s health: lack of education about women’s health problems and solutions, lack of access to high-quality healthcare, and high costs associated with pelvic health issues.
The Pelvic Expert provides content and holistic online programs for women with pelvic pain, endometriosis, PCOS, pregnant women and mothers with pelvic health concerns. Our programs combine hormone-balancing nutrition, therapeutic exercise, pain neuroscience and pelvic health education, which can be taken from the comfort of your own home.
Fitbit has announced it is offering female health tracking. Why do you support this move?
I believe women must deeply understand their bodies and the changes that occur through their menstrual cycle. Having deep insights into symptoms can help women and their doctors diagnose common conditions, such as endometriosis and PCOS. Fitbit Versa and the brand’s new female health tracking features allow women to track all these symptoms throughout their cycle.
Beyond this, women can learn about how their fitness, sleep, moods and diet change through their menstrual cycles, and how they affect each other. This can be correlated with all the other data that the Fitbit provides. Women can then implement changes to improve their symptoms and overall health and wellness.
What has been the leading outcome since you began educating yourself on female health?
The most positive outcome has been the reduction in my pelvic pain and period pain. I suffered for 11 years before I was diagnosed with endometriosis. By committing to dietary and lifestyle changes and understanding pain, I have now moved from severe pain on a daily basis, to virtually no pain 90 per cent of the time.
For the women who seek your services and expertise, what kinds of obstacles are they looking to overcome?
By the time women come to me, they have seen multiple medical and health professionals for their problems. For women with pelvic pain or endometriosis, they are looking for practical strategies to minimise their ongoing pain and to improve fatigue, and for ways to return to the exercise and activities they love.
Mothers who have experienced birth injuries are looking to improve their pelvic floor health and get control of their bladders and bowels, lose their mummy tummies and fix back pain. I work with a lot of women who have pelvic organ prolapse, perineal tears and incontinence.
How will a female health tracker impact women who have never used one before?
Women can collect data about their holistic health and make necessary changes to their diet and lifestyle to improve their overall health and wellness. She can make correlations based on this data, e.g. she may see that her periods are more regular when she exercises regularly, or that when she eats more wholefoods, her period pain reduces, or her PMS improves if she’s sleeping better. Fitbit Versa allows women to collect all this female health data and this can be correlated with the rest of the fitness and sleep data Fitbit collects.
At the launch of Fitbit Versa, you spoke of your experience with endometriosis, which you were diagnosed with long after the fact. What is your hope for other women with undiagnosed endometriosis?
My vision is for endometriosis and PCOS to be more and more incorporated into menstrual health education and female health workshops in schools and workplaces. The average delay in diagnosis is seven to 10 years, which is completely unacceptable.
Once a diagnosis is made, my mission with The Pelvic Expert is to provide women with holistic self-care tools to live a healthier, stronger and happier life.
How do you define self-care?
I believe self-care is a combination of tools that help address physical, emotional and social wellbeing. Self-care is improving the way we eat, the way we move, the way we sleep, the way we deal with stress, our relationships with others, and our relationship with ourselves. Self-care is being the healthiest, strongest, happiest versions of ourselves.
Female health tracking will be available on-device for Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Ionic users, and to all Fitbit app users starting in May 2018.
Heba Shaheed is co-founder and CEO of The Pelvic Expert, a digital wellbeing platform specialising in maternal, menstrual and hormone health. Heba is working closely with Fitbit for the launch of its new smartwatch, Fitbit Versa.