It’s 2016 – we’ve completed the Human Genome Project, created a vaccine for HPV, and have even done full face transplants. But still, scientists have yet to come up with a cure for period cramps, or PMS.
9 out of 10 women suffer from pre-menstrual conditions (that’s 3.1 billion people worldwide, we did the math). Thus, it seems like the global medical community would be more concerned with making breakthroughs on this issue, since it affects billions of people, twelve times a year, for most of their lives.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason for the lack of research.
There are five times as many studies on erectile dysfunction (ED) as there are on PMS. Only 19% of men experience symptoms of ED, while again, there are billions of women suffering from PMS.
This research disparity goes even deeper. Research grants are rarely rewarded for premenstrual issues. The reason? Some research reviewers literally don’t even believe that PMS exists. Kathleen Lustyk, a psychologist from the University of Washington, told ResearchGate that several of her grants about PMS were rejected, because reviewers said that PMS is “merely a product of our society or culture that has painted a natural process in a negative light.” AKA:
“I suspect that this is a fancy way of saying it’s really just in a woman’s head,” Lustyk clarified.
But PMS is no joke. Over 40% of women with PMS do not respond to any treatment at all, and 5-8% of women suffer a more serious form of it, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD symptoms can be so difficult to cope with that 15% of women diagnosed with the disorder attempt suicide.
Gender bias in science could also play a part in the lack of studies done on women’s health. According to a 2013 study conducted by Yale researchers, professors at six major research institutions were “significantly more willing” to offer a male scientist a job than a woman with equal credentials.
If they did hire a woman, her salary, on average would be nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s.
And on a local level, if it feels like the medical community has turned its back on women’s issues in the US, you’re not far off. Pills that treat ED, such as Viagra, are often covered by insurance, while many types of birth control pills (which help women regulate and control PMS symptoms) are not covered at all.
But, there is hope.
The International Society for Premenstrual Disorders, a group of researchers and medical professionals working on women’s health, recommended that women use “period tracker” apps, so that one day, medical researchers could gather your data to conduct studies.
Until then, I’ll be over here with my heating pad and pictures of baby animals, waiting for the scientific community to catch up.