Marie Claire recently published a story called “Doctors Have Finally Ruled Menstrual Cramps Are as Painful as Heart Attacks.”
The resounding response from women? Duh.
It’s excellent timing, then, that Ask Me About My Uterus, a new book by science writer Abby Norman, examines this troubling, centuries-long trend of ignoring (or underdiagnosing) women’s health problems—all through her own experience with endometriosis.
Norman, who writes for the website Futurism, was perfectly healthy when, in the fall of 2010, she suddenly lost 40 pounds and experienced pain so crippling that she was repeatedly hospitalized. Those are just a few of the symptoms (along with back pain, abnormal bleeding and others) of endometriosis, a chronic condition that causes severe, painful cramps and affects as many as one in ten women in the U.S.
She knew something was very wrong, but her doctors insisted it was a urinary tract infection and prescribed antibiotics. Needless to say, they didn’t work, and Norman’s pain continued to the point that she had to drop out of college. Determined to find a more accurate diagnosis, she got a job in a hospital and began a years-long journey to find out what was wrong.
Alternating stories from her childhood and the lead-up to her belated diagnosis with medical research, Norman takes a close, often frustrating look at the broader historical, sociocultural and political context of the rocky relationship between medicine and women’s bodies. For example, did you know that, per Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, women still only made up 41 percent of clinical trials in 2006 (up from 9 percent in 1970)? Crazy.
Read this book, share this book with a man in your life and consider this our full permission to storm off dramatically if someone suggests you “just take a couple Advil and quit complaining.”
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