Over the past two days, news that period pain can be as bad as a heart attack has been featured in headlines everywhere, from Vogue to Cosmopolitan to local news outlets. While it’s encouraging to see menstrual pain getting this much coverage, it’s not exactly news.
And I don’t mean that it’s not news because most people who have experienced period cramps would agree with the statement — it’s literally old news that’s based a story that was reported in Quartz in February 2016.
The news-recycling culprit appears to be Elle U.K., which published its take on the remark in the Quartz article on Feb. 27, 2018 — more than two years after the original. And while the original article was mentioned, no link was provided, so readers and other news outlets (understandably) assumed this was news.
Let’s take a look at the source. In the original article in Quartz, Olivia Goldhill writes: “John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London, tells Quartz that patients have described the cramping pain as ‘almost as bad as having a heart attack.’”
That’s it. It wasn’t the conclusion of a peer-reviewed empirical study — it was one comment from one doctor. In fact, one of the main takeaways from Goldhill’s excellent feature is the lack of research into the causes and treatments of menstrual pain.
That said, this should in no way diminish the sentiment of the piece, which has struck a chord with so many people, both when it originally ran in 2016 and in this week’s resurfacing. If anything, it demonstrates how thirsty we are for people in the medical profession to recognize the severity of period pain and emphasize the need for further research.
Along the same lines, we should be mindful of the “period paradox” — the idea that menstrual pain needs to be taken seriously, but at the same time should not be used to define or disqualify us from full participation in society.
Of course, any coverage that helps to destigmatize menstruation and legitimize period pain is a good thing. Let’s keep moving this conversation forward and hope that next time, the news comes from some new research into this long-overlooked topic.