Katharina Dalton, according to Marla Ahlgrimm, is the mother of modern women’s medicine. Dalton, who was one of the first women to obtain a medical degree from the Royal Free Hospital in London, “discovered” PMS at the most unlikely time in her life: when she was pregnant. At the time, Dalton was 32-years-old and had been suffering with migraine headaches for more than a decade. Halfway through her pregnancy, she realized the headaches had disappeared.
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that Dalton, in cooperation with an endocrinologist named Dr. Greene, concluded that progesterone deficiency was the cause of her recurrent pain. Progesterone levels are elevated during pregnancy. Together, the two physicians were published numerous times in British medical journals. They coined the phrase “premenstrual syndrome” in 1953.
Dr. Dalton dedicated her entire career to treating women with hormone issues surrounding their menstrual cycle. In conflict with popular opinion – and her mostly male coworkers and colleagues – Dr. Dalton asserted that women’s cyclic symptoms were not simply psychological. At the time, explains Marla Ahlgrimm, male physicians tended to diagnose women with “hysteria” when presenting with these recurrent symptoms, which include epilepsy, asthma, migraines, depression, fatigue, and irritability.
Fast forward to the 1970s to a young Marla Ahlgrimm, a budding pharmacist still carving out her reputation as a woman clinician in an industry dominated by men. Ahlgrimm, like Dalton, went against the grain to help women in the United States suffering with what was then still a relatively unknown disorder. Today, Marla Ahlgrimm is credited as a pioneer in the world of women’s hormone studies and has helped develop treatments that help women in many stages of life remain healthy and active.
Marla Ahlgrimm doubts that Dalton fully understood the impact she had in the world of women’s health but claims that it’s immeasurable as Dalton’s contributions continue to improve medicine today.