New study examines women’s health during spaceflight missions

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ISU’s Human Performance in Space Resident Faculty Dr. Virginia Wotring, along with women’s health physician Dr. Varsha Jain and NASA biomedical statisticians, published a new study on the potential risk for developing a blood clot (venous thromboembolism) in space in the May issue of Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance. The study builds on previous work by Wotring and Jain and examined data from a large cohort of female astronauts from 2000 to 2014, in fact, more than half of the women who have ever flown to space.

The data show that spaceflight and combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) use does not increase the risk of venous thromboemoblism (VTE), despite the fact that COCP use on Earth is known to double the risk. The authors suggest that benefits from good fitness practices may outweigh certain other risks, a finding that could be meaningful for women of Earth.

The first case of VTE on a space mission was reported in January 2020. “We see a need for continuing studies with female astronauts. Much of the previous biomedical research in space was conducted on male astronauts, simply because most of the astronauts were male. That has changed, and now we need a better understanding of how the spaceflight environment effects female astronauts” said Dr. Wotring.


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