Women and the hormone cycle

Hormones have a huge influence on human health. And yet we know too little about how the hormone cycle influences women’s health. We at ZonMw are committed to tackling this issue and working to create high quality, appropriate health care for women.

More research on women’s bodies

There is more and more support across Dutch society for better targeted research into women’s bodies. On the radio, on TV and in podcasts, the call for more knowledge about women’s health is getter louder and louder. For example, in March 2022 the programme ‘Pointer’ aired an episode about inequality in the GP surgery, with a contribution from our director, Véronique Timmerhuis. And in the fall of 2022, the advocacy group Voices for Women presented a petition to Minister Ernst Kuipers and Dutch Parliament. We too see the importance of closing the gaps in our knowledge of women’s bodies. On this page you can read more about our activities in the fields of female-specific, hormonal and unexplained symptoms.

Female-specific conditions: what are we talking about?

Research into the differences between men and women focuses on conditions that commonly occur among both women and men. Research into women and female hormones specifically targets conditions that fall into one of three categories.

  1. Problems involving women’s hormonal cycle, such as menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.
  2. Conditions that have women-specific forms related to the female hormonal cycle. Examples include auto-immune diseases, migraines and diabetes.
  3. Gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis.

Women with medically unexplained symptoms

We don’t know enough about certain female-specific symptoms, which means that many women receive a late diagnosis, a wrong diagnosis, or no diagnosis at all. Women can go on for years suffering from unexplained symptoms, a situation that has a huge impact on the lives of these women. Sometimes the eventual diagnosis points to a female-specific condition. In partnership with the foundation Voices for Women, we highlight the stories of 3 women who kept searching for the right diagnosis. We ask: what were their needs during this process? (video in Dutch)

Mapping gaps in our knowledge

To find solutions to problems, we first have to know which questions are still unanswered when it comes to female-specific conditions. The Dutch Society for Obstetrics and Gynaecology (NVOG) is partnering with the Knowledge Institution of the Federation of Medical Specialists, WOMEN Inc. and others to tackle this problem, all funded by ZonMw. They are going to identify and define gaps in our knowledge, and suggest how to answer knowledge questions. After which they will draw up a scientific agenda, a social agenda and implementation plan.

ZonMw: flagging, funding and impacting

We at ZonMw have been aware for some time of our knowledge deficit concerning women in health care research. We are already funding research in this area, and we organised a symposium for experts in the field of female-specific and female hormonal conditions. We are pushing ahead by flagging gaps in our knowledge and putting them on the agenda in order to generate more research programmes. In addition to funding the knowledge agenda, we are in discussions on how to increase research into female-specific conditions and what steps are necessary to clear away obstacles.

Research into complications in pregnancy

2 studies within the knowledge programme Gender and Health are dedicated to complications in pregnancy. Women who suffer complications during pregnancy are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease postpartum. Hedwig Vos and Jeanine Roeters van Lennep have been researching this topic. They concluded that pregnancy is a huge stress test for the body. In order to prevent postpartum cardiovascular disease, they suggest that women be given lifestyle advice and regular check-ups by their GP.


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