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What science is just starting to understand about periods

By Anna North, VOX

Periods have a significant impact on one’s mind, body, and spirit — but there is much behind menstrual cycles that scientists don’t know due to misogyny within scientific and medical research. However, recent studies have begun to reveal more information about how menstruation affects one’s mental health. In particular, a research team at the University of Illinois Chicago revealed that for many female patients, “Suicidal thoughts tended to get worse in the days right before and during menstruation.” In a different study, researchers also reported more intense suicidal ideation and suicidal planning on the days around menstruation. Other clinicians and professionals have noted that 3-8% of menstruating people experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)– involving severe anxiety, depression, and irritability before one’s period. Moreover, “60% of women with depressive disorders…[report feeling] worse around their periods.”

While blaming this on hormones has become socially acceptable, “most people don’t experience major psychiatric symptoms in response to hormonal changes.” That being said, some scientists recommend studying behavioral and pharmaceutical treatments via dialectical behavioral therapies and hormone-blocking drugs. Menstrual fluid and uterine lining also seem to be of interest, as it provides insight into wound healing, uterine fibroids, cancer, and endometriosis. 

Regardless of the impact of scientific research and the physical side effects of menstruation, healthcare professionals must provide more information about how periods affect mental health and other emotional symptoms moving forward. There is still much stigma associated with menstrual cycles, and as a result, “around 40 percent of PMDD patients [in 2022] said their mental health care providers had no knowledge of the condition.” While industries are starting to catch up and recognize the importance of menstruation research, “We’re very, very behind” and there is still much work to do. 

by Manju Karthikeyan

Scotland Pauses Gender Medications for Minors

By Azeen Ghorayashi, The New York Times

As of April 18, Scotland’s National Health Service has paused the legal administration of puberty-blocking therapies among other gender-affirming related care. Citing a health report from England a week before, new data displayed the potential for long-term medical consequences of puberty-blocking medication and physicians had concluded that the studied benefits of youth gender treatment did not offer strong support for sustained services.

This has increased ongoing country, with Scotland joining as number six in the list of European and United Kingdom nations reverting policies on gender-affirming medical care for youth. Scotland’s policies appear to be the most stringent; while other countries have allowed teenagers over the age of 16 to receive hormone therapy, Scotland has prohibited these treatments until the age of 18. While those taking these medications through Scotland’s Young People Gender Service will not be affected by the need for psychological care, receiving a prescription for these medications is a lengthy and mentally draining process.

There has been much discourse from transgender groups about the right of children facing gender dysphoria to have a wide range of access to gender-affirming care. As more and more nations adopt these policies, they set a precedent for equitable trans-healthcare access. 

— by Saanvi Nayar

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Often Go Untreated for Parents on Medicaid 

By Emily Baumgaertner, The New York Times

There is a mental health and drug addiction crisis across the United States, and parents on Medicaid are particularly struggling to access treatment services.

Research conducted at the nonprofit institute RTI International and the Department of Health and Human Services found that less than half of parents on Medicaid with substance use disorders had received any treatment. Furthermore, among 58,551 parents whose children were referred to welfare services, due suspected child abuse or neglect, more than half had a psychiatric or substance use diagnosis. Addressing these parents’ health challenges through medical treatment could notably reduce these statistics.

However, several barriers hinder access to necessary treatment for these parents. Norma Coe, an associate professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that “In general, the U.S. supports parents and caregivers less than many other countries.” Additional factors that deter parents from seeking help through medicaid are stigma, inconvenience, and fear of losing parental rights. 

In response to these findings, the researchers advocate for enhanced coordination between social programs, such as the data systems of child welfare and Medicaid to better identify when parents need to be connected to specific services. However, Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies inequity warns that there is “a shortage of treatment providers that will accept patients on Medicaid, which pays lower reimbursement rates than private insurers,” which makes these interventions challenging. 

by Julia Roth

Items summarized by: Manju Karthikeyan, Saanvi Nayar, Julia Roth