Menopause can have a huge effect on women’s physiological and mental states. In order to get more acquainted with this from an objective (medical) perspective, we approached three experts who are working closely with menopausal women. They were:
1. a physiotherapist and researcher in bio-medicine with an expertise in rehabilitation sciences and co-development of technology-supported rehabilitation applications for musculo-skeletal problems
2. a hospital gynecologist
3. a private menopausal consultant.
The goals of the semi-structured interviews with the experts were threefold:
– to discover background information about the menopause, its symptoms, and possible treatments known from the medical practice.
– to affirm the persona (Marina) that we created based on menopausal women’s interviews as well as literature reviews.
– to explore the vibration implications on any medical symptoms that menopausal women can have.
After the introduction, the semi-structured interview started with asking general questions regarding menopausal women. Second, persona “Marina” was introduced to the experts, in order to get them acquainted with one ‘typical’ patient or client and for us to obtain an affirmation of such a persona. We asked several questions regarding Marina – a woman in menopause with typical symptoms and lifestyle, such as: “Could Marina be your patient? (if not, why not?) And do you miss anything from her story?” “What are the most common major complaints that women like Marina have (during the different states of menopause – pre during and after menopause)?” “What kind of special medical treatment pre, during or after menopause do you advise women like Marina?” . Third, we introduced the vibe-ing garment via showing the explanatory video as well as introducing its functions. Then we stirred the conversation on vibrations and their possible effects on any menopausal symptoms as well as the envisioning of the use of the garment within their practices.
All interviews were transcribed and important quotes were highlighted. These quotes were translated into several attributes and clustered in a large affinity diagram of expert findings.
What is menopause?
Women are diagnosed with menopause when they haven’t had a menstruation during at least one year. The average age at which this happens in the Netherlands is 52. The accompanying changes in hormonal (mostly estrogen) levels cause the women to have short-term and long-term symptoms. The short term symptoms can include: night sweats, hot flushes, mood swings, sleeplessness, insecurity, not feeling happy around other people, drier skin and eyes, and dryness of the mucous membranes. The long term symptoms are: higher risk for heart disease/failure, as well as osteoporosis.
The vibe-ing garment currently offers 17 small vibratory motors on 3 locations. 6 vibratory motors are placed across the shoulder area (transverses stripe), 3 vibratory motors are placed on the lower part of the spine and 8 motors are allocated symmetrically at the chest area.
Since the garment currently offers only a vibratory stimulus, we decided to focus on vibrations mainly and link this product feature with literature review as well as obtain the experts’ opinions about it. The literature says about vibration, especially the whole body vibration, that it has a positive effect on improvement of the bone mineral density in the hip area (Slatkovska et al., 2010). One of the experts said: “Vibrations are known to reduce pain. It can, if it’s the right vibratory sequence, give a comfortable feeling and reduce pain, like massage does. However you cannot say that vibrations treat the pain.” Another expert mentioned: “Sometimes I also advise massage, yoga or haptotherapy to menopausal women.”
The experts also advised us on the body locations where the garment could be beneficial either for a better blood flow (e.g. abdomen), massage (e.g. neck, shoulder line) and correcting a posture and therefore strengthening the muscles around the bones (e.g. paravertebral muscle area, shoulders – transverses stripe, neck area, deep abdomen muscles).
Other related applications
The experts elaborated further with the vibe-ing and brought some new insights on how the garment could be used. They mentioned:
“I think that the therapeutic value in this prototype lies in having the vibrations as reminders for keeping a good posture. It might also persuade the patient to do a certain action.”
“The device would be useful for people who are less prone to do sports or other activities which help to prevent the low bone density or reduce the risk of heart disease.”
“It would be nice if you could come up with something that cools and chills to battle the hot flashes.”
The next work on the menu is the user research. Our target users will explore the vibe-ing garment. They will be able to touch it, feel it and comment on its functions and modalities. The existing affinity diagram (currently including the outcomes from the menopausal women’s interviews and expert findings) is going to be extended with the experiences of the users from the user research.