Wait time for men is said to be about 45 minutes for abdominal pain and over an hour for women….John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London, revealed this week that research shows period pain can be as “bad as having a heart attack”. He said: “Men don’t get it and it hasn’t been given the centrality it should have. I do believe it’s something that should be taken care of, like anything else in medicine.” Click to read more
Dr Imogen Shaw, a GP specialising in women’s healthcare, welcomed his comments, saying: “I wouldn’t say [period pain] has been hugely investigated,” and when asked if the issue would be taken more seriously if men experienced it, said: “I suspect there would be, being very cynical.”
It is extraordinary how little the medical profession engages with menstruation. Although recent years have seen period taboos broken through social media campaigns, this has yet to permeate medical discourse – and periods are seldom given serious medical consideration in research. Scant research has been conducted on specific pain prevention or pain relief and devices such as tampons, moon-cups and sanitary towels remain rudimentary.
It’s not only women’s period pain which is taken less seriously, either – ignoring women’s pain is a concerning practise across medicine. Recent research has shown that women’s pain is taken much less seriously by doctors generally.
Men wait an average of 49 minutes before being treated for abdominal pain. For women, the wait is 65 minutes for the same symptoms. It’s thought that this is because women are seen as exaggerating pain and being ‘dramatic’ due to sexist stereotypes, while men are listened to and believed when they express the same pain and symptoms.
Indeed, the word ‘hysterical’, itself stems from hystericus, meaning ‘of the womb’, indelibly linking how society has linked wombs with overreaction, incredibility and instability.
The great historians of the world have been mostly silent on the issue of menstruation. Period pain has long been restricted to whispered exchanges between mothers, daughters, sisters and female friends, rather than worthy of polite conversation, never mind the annals of history or intellectual debate.
However, menstrual blood occasionally seeps through history’s pages, and its rare appearances reveal something telling.