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Research on Women With MS Needs More Diversity, Study Finds

Posted on March 22, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

  • Topics related to women’s health are largely under-researched among people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Most existing research studies are focused on women with relapsing-remitting MS and those who are pregnant, but researchers recommend future studies include more diversity.

Women’s health issues aren’t getting the attention they should when it comes to MS research. A new study from a team of researchers on behalf of the International Advisory Committee on Clinical Trials in MS showed an urgent need to address knowledge gaps on various women’s health topics.

The researchers reviewed studies published between 1980 and 2020 on women’s health that included women who had MS, clinically isolated syndrome, or radiologically isolated syndrome. The researchers selected 353 studies which met the criteria for their review.

While studies on women’s health and MS have increased over the years, almost no research took place outside of Europe and North America. About 87 percent of studies did not include the racial or ethnic identity of their participants. Additionally, 40 percent of the studies focused on people who had relapsing-remitting MS, which is only one type of the disease.

The findings also showed an uneven distribution of women’s health topics, with some areas explored more frequently than others. More than one-third of topics were related to pregnancy, but only 25.4 percent of the pregnancy studies included people with progressive MS.

Following pregnancy, the next most-studied women’s health topic involved fetal and neonatal outcomes, followed by sexual dysfunction. Only a few studies on women with MS looked at menopause, birth control, fertility, cancer screening, or gender identity.

The researchers recommended that future studies recruit women with MS of various races and ethnicities. They also advised that additional research focus on underrepresented areas outside of North America and Europe.

“Future studies are needed that focus more on understudied topics such as menopause, sex hormones, and cancer screening,” the study authors wrote. “All studies addressing women’s health should seek to include participants with a broader range of races and ethnicities, with progressive MS, and to clearly report these participant characteristics.”

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Jocelyn Solis-Moreira is a journalist covering health and science. She received a graduate degree in psychology concentrating on behavioral neuroscience. Learn more about her here.

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