Year in Review: Women’s Health in 2023

The women’s health landscape is ever-changing, and 2023 was no exception. As we close out another year, we’re revisiting some of the top stories in women’s health at OHSU and beyond. Look back on some of the top national stories and OHSU breakthroughs in women’s health research.

A group of women hike among trees.

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Period products research

OHSU researchers made headlines for their study of menstrual product absorbency. Prior to their research, period products such as tampons, pads and cups relied on saline to determine how much liquid the products could hold. Menstrual blood and saline have different consistencies, and the researchers felt that inaccurate absorbency numbers may result in doctors underdiagnosing heavy menstrual bleeding. The research revealed not only that menstrual discs hold the most blood, but also the need for updated metrics to better identify people with heavy bleeding.

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FDA approvals of new vaccines and treatments

It was a big year for big changes. We saw the approval and administration of the first RSV vaccine in pregnancy. The new vaccine, given in the third trimester of pregnancy, protects infants from the RSV virus once born. RSV is the number one cause of hospitalization in children under 1 year old.

We also saw the approval of the first oral medicine for treatment of postpartum depression (PPD). Research from the Centers for Disease Control shows that PPD is common, affecting 1 in 8 people after giving birth.

Abortion care

Abortion care continued to make headlines across the country in the wake of the Dobbs decision in 2022. While the Supreme Court decision resulted in restricted access or bans to abortion care in many states, OHSU remains committed to the statement issued the day of the decision: Abortion is essential health care.

In response, OHSU launched the Center for Reproductive Health Equity in early 2023 to advance reproductive health care, policy and research. Mid-year, the OHSU Foundation posted a video about the ongoing efforts to train providers from states with abortion restrictions.

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The White House takes action

President Biden announced the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research. The national attention on women’s health research aims to spur discoveries and innovation and to close research gaps. The Office of the First Lady and the White House Gender Policy Council will lead the effort.

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Pain management in women's health in the spotlight

Research has shown that gynecologic pain often gets dismissed or overlooked. This year, more and more news outlets began to cover the disconnect between reported pain in women’s health exams and procedures and the response of the medical community as a whole.  (Note: The Center for Women’s’ Health offers pain control options for gynecologic procedures.)