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Sally King is a PhD student in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine. She is also the Director of Menstrual Matters, an online information hub about menstrual health and its relationship with human rights.

Sally has over a decade’s experience as a professional researcher in human rights organisations, with a focus on gender equality. She is a massive fan of 'Evidence-Based Medicine' and has a master’s degree in Research Methods (qualitative and quantitative).


Thesis title: 'What counts as a premenstrual symptom? Patient and expert health professional perspectives on a highly stigmatised and contested 'illness' – PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)'

Despite being a widely known and publicly-discussed phenomenon, ‘PMS’ is notoriously difficult to define, with no universally agreed diagnostic criteria or shortlist of deterministic symptoms. The prevalence of ‘PMS’ is, therefore, impossible to determine. Without clear diagnostic boundaries, it is difficult to accurately differentiate between normal ‘menstrual changes’ and pathological ‘premenstrual symptoms.’

The lack of standardisation across clinical definitions of ‘PMS’ has contributed to a history of non-replicable and contradictory clinical research findings. Meanwhile, the causal mechanism(s) of ‘PMS’ remain unknown, with numerous hypotheses proving impossible to confirm due to the inherent variability of menstrual experiences, and subsequent lack of comparable research data.

Experimental approaches have also identified various social and psychological factors in patient experiences of ‘PMS’. Such findings have reinforced the convictions of those, including clinicians, who question the very existence of ‘PMS’ as a legitimate biomedical condition.

A major objective of this thesis is to contribute to the realisation of a more precise and evidence-based definition of cyclical symptoms. Ideally, one that could inform the creation of a standard list of the most common ‘PMS’ symptoms to aide diagnosis, improve the comparability of research findings, and de-stigmatise the normal experiences of the vast majority of people who menstruate.

PhD supervision

Further details

See Sally's research profile