The UK Government are getting serious

The UK Government are getting serious about women’s health. What this means for women with PMS and PMDD.

Ministers said that women were too often let down by a healthcare system “designed by men for men” as they called for female issues to be given a higher priority.

Last June the UK government released an open invitation for women as well as health organisations and charities to come forward and share experiences on women’s health. The feedback would then be reviewed by health officials, who would then use this material to build the inaugural women’s health strategy, which is due to be published later in the year.

Maria Caulfield, the women’s health minister, said: “For generations, women have lived in a healthcare system primarily designed by men, for men. We are committed to tackling the gender health gap, and the publication of our strategy later this year will mark a significant step forward.”

The call for evidence focused on six key areas:

  1. Placing women’s voices at the centre of their health and care
  2. Improving the quality and accessibility of information and education on women’s health
  3. Ensuring the health and care system understands and is responsive to women’s health and care needs across the life course
  4. Maximising women’s health in the workplace
  5. Ensuring research, evidence and data support improvements in women’s health
  6. Understanding and responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on women’s health

Health organisations have advised the UK government ahead of the first publication of the report that Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) must be taken more seriously because it caused women anxiety and depression. 

Very often these symptoms are woefully underplayed and often laughed at but it has been called for more to be done to understand the impact of PMS on quality of life, as well as work to train health professionals to support women going through the menopause.

The new research, summarising responses from 436 organisations with an interest in women’s health, said that too often female health concerns were “dismissed” or “not taken seriously”.

Dr Nick Panay, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said that he was pleased to see the Government highlight PMS as a priority area.

He said: “Both premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder [PMDD] can severely impact on women’s daily lives and their mental health.

“There are over 150 symptoms linked to PMS, which cover psychological and behavioural symptoms such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical symptoms, including headaches and breast tenderness.

“There are no blood tests that can con rm PMS or PMDD, and currently diagnosis depends on the timing of symptoms in the menstrual cycle.”

Dr Panay, who is also the chairman of the National Association for Premenstrual Syndromes, said that he hoped the strategy would mean more research into menstrual health and better information and education, both for women and healthcare professionals.

He said: “It is estimated as many as 30 per cent of women experience moderate to severe PMS, while five to eight per cent of the female population in the UK have PMDD. These conditions should not be overlooked, and women suffering with PMS and PMDD deserve more support.”

Currently Anxiety and depression are not included in the core curriculum for psychiatrists as symptoms of PMS despite being a common occurrence, a new government report noted.

It called for more to be done to understand the impact of PMS on quality of life, as well as work to train health professionals to support women going through the menopause.

It said that too often, women were advised that problematic periods did not warrant further investigation, or could simply be managed by improvements in diet and exercise.

The report also called for better public campaigns and greater awareness among employers to help women going through the menopause in the workplace.

“The menopause is still a taboo topic in many workplace settings, and there are variations in menopause support policies and awareness of the different symptoms women can experience beyond hot flushes (such as “brain fog”),” it said.

“This can contribute to productivity and retention issues – issues which are set to increase, with more women aged 50 and above participating in employment.”

The data show that since the pandemic, waiting lists for gynaecology faced the biggest increase of all medical specialities. The news followed warnings that more than half a million women face long waits for gynaecological care.

Ms Caulfield said: “I want to thank the expert individuals and organisations who took the time to respond to our call for evidence. The insights you have provided have been stark and sobering but will be pivotal to ensuring our strategy represents the first-hand experiences of the health care system.

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