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Women's health research is still frustratingly behind that of men's. The good news? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is finally doing something about it.

Amelia Harnish
September 25, 2014

Hearing your doctor answer "I don't know" to questions about say, your migraines is basically the worst. She's supposed to know about these things, after all. But the surprising thing is it's not necessarily her fault. The real problem is that women's health research is still frustratingly behind that of men's.

The good news? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is finally doing something about it: This week, the organization pledged a whopping $10.1 million to fund more than 80 scientists studying things like migraine, stroke, even drug addiction, according to the New York Times. The funds will go toward ensuring women and female animals are included in clinical trials and analyzing gender differences in the data.

Currently, women are woefully missing from medical research, from animal studies all the way up to human trials. Scientists have traditionally focused on male test animals (like rats) in early investigations because male subjects don't have the same pesky female hormonal changes, which are harder to study. The result: "We literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology,” as Janine Austin Clayton, MD, associate director for research on women's health at the NIH, told the Times.

That is a crazy thing to hear in 2014, no?

And it has huge consequences. Besides the times your doctor can't answer your questions, this is also why women are more likely to experience scary side effects in approved drugs and devices. A recent example is the sleep aid Ambien, the recommended dosage of which was found to be dangerously high in women. But multiple drugs have been pulled from the market after being released in the past because of greater risks in women, according to the Society for Women's Health Research.

Not only will that nonsense stop, this welcome change may also finally lead to more answers for health problems that seem to be sex-specific, including autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, depression, and yep, migraines.

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