The First EVER Doctor to Recognise PMS

Today is the 101st International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s lives and achievements, and to fight for the many women who still lack basic rights to healthcare, education, representation and freedom from violence.  The Best and Worst Places To Be A Woman is a reminder that we’re a long way away from that in many parts of the world – including some quite close to home.

We all owe a massive debt to the women who came before us and who successfully campaigned for, among other things:

  • The right to vote (achieved for all adult women in the UK in 1928)
  • Control over reproduction (the Pill came to the UK – for married women only – in 1961, and the Abortion Act making abortion legal in certain circumstances came into force in 1967)
  • Equal rights at work ( The 1975 Equal Pay Act and The Sex Discrimination Act). 

An Opportunity to Honour a True PMS Pioneer

PMS pioneer Dr Katharina DaltonIn the world of PMS medicine, Dr Katharina Dalton (1916-2004) is a true heroine and trailblazer. 

You could say she ‘discovered’ PMS by giving it a name, researching it and trying out different PMS treatments on herself and her patients.

She began her career as a chiropodist, but had always dreamed of being a doctor – still very much a male-dominated profession at the time. 

She finally went to medical school after losing her first husband in the Second World War, and qualified on the same day in 1948 that the NHS was born. 

As well as suffering from PMS herself (which she noticed disappeared during her pregnancy), she observed that there was a monthly pattern to the symptoms described by many of her female patients and recognised that this profoundly affected their lives.  But at the time, the idea that hormones had such a profound effect was still dismissed as nonsense and she was a lone voice for many years.  (There are still some today who say that PMS is psychosomatic, or ‘an excuse’).

She coined the term Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), and in 1957, set up the first PMS clinic in the world, and ran it for the next forty years.  She published extensively on PMS and appeared as an expert witness in criminal trials where PMS was used as a defence. 

She was a founder member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and instrumental in founding The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) in 1983. Many of the founder members of NAPS were personally treated by Dr Dalton, and as the first doctor to take PMS seriously, she was consulted by many women, including some famous ones, like Sylvia Plath.

Dr Dalton’s treatment for PMS focused on balancing blood sugar by eating regularly (at least every three hours), which is basic advice that still holds good today as part of a healthy eating plan to beat PMS.  She also promoted keeping a symptom diary so that women could be better prepared for PMS episodes.  She recommended supplementation with natural progesterone, the effectiveness of which is still hotly debated (definitely a topic for another post!). 

We wouldn’t be where we are today in understanding and managing PMS without the foundations build by Dr Dalton.  She was hugely influential in forcing the medical establishment to take PMS seriously and was a trailblazer in PMS research and treatment for women who suffer PMS.

We have an opportunity to say Thank You and make sure that she is remembered by future generations of women:

PLEASE Nominate Dr Dalton for The New Elizabethans

BBC Radio 4 are asking for nomination for 60 most inspirational people who have made a mark in the last sixty years.  Let’s get this wonderful gutsy woman into the running.  It only takes a minute to submit your nomination online. Entries close at 5pm on Friday 9 March. 

Happy International Women’s Day!

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2 thoughts on “The First EVER Doctor to Recognise PMS

  1. It is lovely to read your tribute to Dr Dalton, whose work is largely scorned and ignored now by the medical establishment, who nevertheless make use of the concept of pre-menstrual syndrome without attributing her recognition and naming of it.
    I was a founder member of the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome, trained with her as a Self-Help Advisor and volunteered for eight years. She saved me from being sent down the psychiatric route when I reacted badly to the high -dose pill I had been encouraged to go on when my daughter was 9 months old. Later on she treated me with progesterone throughout my next pregnancy, since I had had severe morning sickness in the first on. I wasnt sick once and had a healthy boy, now the father of 2 children.
    Thanks and Best Wishes for your site,
    Jenny H

  2. Hello, I am 61 years old.
    I didnt have any Menopause symptoms – my friends suffered badly!
    My GP tried to treat me for onset of Post Natal depression when i was 27yrs, for a year. Then he referred me to Dr Dalton.
    She saved my life, and my sanity.
    She took me off antidepressants my GP had put me on.
    She taught me about diet,exercise and Progesterone!

    Dr Katharina Dalton was my saviour. I am honoured to have known this wonderful, understanding, educated lady.

    I ate a small amount of carbohydrate, quarter of a slice of bread, or an oatcake or half a small banana for example, every 3 hours, and used 200mg dose increasing to 400mg pessary of natural Progesterone – Cyclogest, every day, up to six doses a day.
    I had daily intra muscular injections of Progesterone for about a year after my second child was born,when i was 30 yrs. Dr Dalton taught me to do them on myself. Then continued with Pessaries unril i was 58yrs old.

    My depression associated with PMS and ALL OTHER PMS symptoms went away completely with Progesterone and eating 3 hourly carbs.

    I saw Katharina Dalton from age 27 until she died, every 3 to 6 months.
    I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

    Katharina told me if i continued with Progesterone until 2years after my last period, i wouldnt have MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS! I DIDNT!

    My last period happened when i was 56yrs. I stopped Progesterone when i was 58yrs. I DIDNT HAVE ONE MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOM

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