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  • Take this pill, don't ask questions. Buy this product, and you'll be better.

  • Your body does this naturally, but that's gross, so change it. I feel like my whole life I've

  • been trying to see these messages for what they are and unlearn what they've taught me...

  • and yet here I am, two master's degrees deep into adulthood, still feeling like so

  • much of what happens to my body is out of my control. And when I ask the question, which

  • I always do: 'isn't it just supposed to do that?', or 'Why is THIS the way it

  • is?'...The answer, most of the time, is…'we don't know.'

  • So, hi. I'm Maren. This is Body Language, and we're gonna talk about all the stuff

  • the world usually tells us not to. Because the truth is, what we don't know

  • far outweighs what we do.

  • I mean, we know so little about female reproductive

  • system in the first place that things like ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers can

  • go undiagnosed for way longer than they would if we like...actually understood what 'normal'

  • is supposed to feel like, or felt more comfortable talking about the fact that, 'hey, something kind of

  • weird is happening with my vagina. Maybe I need to get that checked out.'

  • So, there's a gap between our common understanding of 'health', and what that means

  • for bodies that aren't, wellmale.

  • And this gap isn't exactly something new.

  • -We have historically considered men and male

  • animals and even male cells as the default for clinical research. And that's really limited

  • our ability in terms of research understanding for everybody. When we talk to you about the

  • difference between women and men, it's not just the cells in our body and how our

  • organs interact with each other, our systems work together within our bodies, but it's

  • also about how we experience the environment.

  • -See, medicine has historically seen women

  • as reproductive bodies more than anything else, this is a phenomenon sometimes called

  • 'bikini medicine'. It essentially reduces women's health to just the body parts that are different from

  • men: mostly the breasts and reproductive organs. And back before our modern understanding of

  • anatomy, ye olde doctors of yore actually thought the womb would just like...detach

  • itself and wander around the body. And that's what caused illness in women? Really scientific

  • thinking there, guys. But seriously, medical misinformation like

  • that was used for centuries to support the idea that things like menstruation and pregnancy

  • made women the weaker, inferior sex, things that were reflected in society.

  • Can you imagine?! Making a whole human being and then

  • pushing it out of a tiny hole in your body making you the weaker sex?! Yeah, ok, sure.

  • I mean, just having a female body in itself was basically considered an illness.

  • Take the term 'hysteria; It first appeared about 4,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, and

  • over the centuries, it became a catch-all term for women's pain that doctors couldn't

  • diagnose medically. And in the 19th century, it gained that notorious meaning

  • we know today, used in psychiatry to describe 'women who couldn't control their emotions'.

  • -The surgical removal of the uterus was considered a procedure that was performed

  • for the purpose of improving women's mental health. And by the way, it didn't work. However,

  • the word for surgical removal of the uterus today is still hysterectomy. And it comes

  • from that, that idea of hysteria being related to women's reproductive organs.

  • And while the term hysteria is rarely used in medical settings today, we do still see

  • the echoes of it. This bias is maybe most obvious in how clinical

  • trials have typically been conducted. Clinical trials are where we get our most important

  • scientific knowledge about how medicines or surgeries will affect the human body. And

  • for most of medical history, researchers... only ever tested stuff on men. Which, once again, seems

  • like the opposite of scientific thinking, but go off, I guess.

  • See, in 1977, the FDA passed a policy that banned women ofchildbearing agefrom

  • Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials. And in case you're wondering, that range usually

  • means women between the ages of 15 and 52. Though women in this age range were allowed

  • to participate in later trial phases, some argue that the policy still discouraged women

  • from participating at all. The policy was put in place following a few high profile

  • cases of drugs that did cause severe birth defects, but it meant that we just didn't get to learn

  • about how so many drugs affected female bodies. Even though women were eventually

  • going to be prescribed those drugs if they passed clinical trial.

  • Now luckily, in the mid-1980s, a National Institutes of Health policy did encourage more

  • inclusion of women and other minorities in clinical research for exactly this reason,

  • and later in 1993 the FDA did reverse the ban. But even after that, many studies still

  • didn't include women. This is because the scientific community has long-considered the

  • menstrual cycle and female hormones as variables that would throw their trial data out of whack,

  • and would make the study more complicated and therefore, more expensive.

  • And as you can imagine, this has led to some problems.

  • -We know that mice are not small humans, and women are not small men. So women and men may

  • metabolize drugs in different fashions, and drugs may be metabolized differently, depending

  • on the hormonal environment in which the drugs are taken. And so if we haven't studied the

  • drugs on women and men, we may not be applying the right doses.

  • -And it's not just about drugs. It's also about how healthcare treats women...literally.

  • Women are more likely to experience delays between the onset of symptoms and a diagnosis.

  • That's for all kinds of issues, including many kinds of cancers, and is in part because

  • their symptoms are still being attributed to 'stress'...sounds a lot like a modern-day

  • hysteria.

  • -The thing that's really dangerous about this

  • idea that mental health in women is is somehow related to their anatomy, is that it's, it's

  • led to the dismissal of women's health conditions. When we've gone back and looked in more depth

  • at some of the conditions that have been traditionally thought of as in women's heads. There's

  • actually a physiologic basis for many of these conditions.

  • -One of those conditions Dr. Temkin is talking about is endometriosis. That's when the

  • lining of the uterus, or the endometrium, grows outside the uterus, into the pelvis

  • and abdomen, which can cause a lot of pain. Even though 1 in 10 people with a uterus struggle

  • with this condition, we don't know what causes it or really, how we can treat it effectively.

  • In fact, women seeking treatment for abdominal pain are much less likely to be prescribed

  • pain medication than male patients presenting with the same level of pain.

  • -They often go from provider to provider and wait years to get a diagnosis or treatment

  • because their physical symptoms of pain are dismissed as in their heads.

  • And this is an even bigger problem for those from minority groups. Like one study found

  • that Black women have an even more difficult time getting diagnosed with endometriosis

  • than their white peers. Lower income women have less access to health care in the

  • first place, and studies show that they are less likely to receive important preventative

  • care, like mammograms.

  • Trans women and non-straight women are less likely to receive the care they need because

  • providers don't receive training on how to properly treat them.

  • -The way that we interact with the healthcare system can be different based upon some of

  • our social conditions, such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, ability,

  • your socioeconomic status, all of these things really intersect with our communities, our

  • environment and the healthcare system, to determine how we, how we respond to interventions

  • and how we respond to treatments and how and how well we live,

  • and how we experience side effects.

  • -BUT...things are getting better. With improved

  • policies and laws, women now represent about half of the participants in NIH-funded trials.

  • I mean, it's a step in the right direction. And this is why more support and funding for

  • women's healtheverything from menopause to nutrition to gynecological cancers

  • is so necessary. We need to fill that gap that's been developing for centuries. It's actually

  • one of the reasons I went back to graduate school for medical microbiology. Beacuse I have questions,

  • I'm frustrated with how few answers we have, and I want to be part of finding some of those

  • answers, which is why I'm studying the vaginal microbiome.

  • -It's important that women engage in their

  • own health care. So it can be something as simple as asking your doctor whether a medication

  • that's prescribed has been tested in women or not. We also encourage women to participate

  • in clinical trials whenever they're available, you don't have to be sick to participate in

  • a clinical trial. And, that's a way that everybody can contribute.

  • Information is power.

  • And for too long, women's bodies have been so shrouded in shame and repression that we've

  • been left out of so much of medicine's progress because our bodies aren't considered the

  • 'norm', or even just for convenience's sake.

  • But the more data we have, the more we'll understand about all these essential questions.

  • Like what kind of birth control do you need, how is it going to affect your specific body,

  • or how can you understand your own menstrual cycle to take more control of your health?

  • So in this new series I hope we can all get a little more comfy with asking some of those

  • questions, and I'm so excited that you're along for the ride as we explore the answers

  • we do have, and highlight the places where we need a little more work .

  • Our bodies are awesome. And I hope you think so too.

  • Thank you so much for watching Seeker's new series Body Language.

  • I hope you've enjoyed this video.

  • If there's another women's health topic you want us to cover, leave it for us a comment.

  • I'll see you next time!

Take this pill, don't ask questions. Buy this product, and you'll be better.

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B1 clinical health body uterus hysteria reproductive

Why We Know So Little About Women’s Bodies

  • 17 1
    Summer posted on 2021/06/29
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