University Post
University of Copenhagen
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Researcher: Disparity between research on women's and men's diseases

Medical doctor and postdoc Amani Meaidi spends all her waking hours working against one particular imbalance: The amount of research into men's and women's diseases. She is so obsessed with women-specific genes that she sometimes gets a stress rash on her hands.

When Amani Meaidi thinks back she can point to one specific scene from her past that got her dreaming of becoming a doctor.

In this scene, her own mother sits there, as if petrified, in front of the television, crying.

»Ever since I was very young, my mother cried over the plight of Palestinians when she saw the images on TV. In my own, childish, mind I thought that if I became a doctor, maybe I could fix the injustices, and help the people who had been hurt by war and destruction,« Amani Meaidi recalls.

»Once I put my mind to something, I only have that one goal in mind. That is the way I am,« she adds.

She took one step closer to that goal when she graduated as a top student from secondary school in 2010 with a top-score Danish grade point average of 13.2, which gave her direct admission to the medical programme. But after she started at the University of Copenhagen that year, she soon got bored.

»I knew I was going to be a doctor, but then I also found out that medicine wasn’t for me. I was bored studying. There was a lot of rote learning, and not much space for wider discussions. Medicine is not rocket science. It’s not hardcore physics or math, where things can be very advanced. The body is very intuitive and simple. And for me, biology immediately makes sense. Of course it requires time and discipline,« says Amani Meaidi.


* PhD in Public Health & Epidemiology, UCPH

* Winner of the research competition PhD Cup 2022

* Recipient of the Lundbeck Foundation Talent Award 2023

* Employed as a postdoc at the Danish Cancer Institute at the Danish Cancer Society, where she does research on the safety of medical treatment for women

* Steering committee member in the Danish Quality Database on Early Pregnancy and Abortion

* Married to Hassan and mother of Adam and Karim.


The University Post met the disciplined doctor at the Danish Cancer Institute to talk about her research. Research that has made headlines in recent years. Her achievements include a research breakthrough on the safety of hormonal contraception for women.

Amani Meaidi discovered that the IUD containing the least amount of hormone is actually the biggest culprit when it comes to ectopic, or out-of-the-uterus, pregnancies. Most recently, she has published the results of a research project that shows that vaginal hormone treatment with suppositories does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

32-year-old Amani Meaidi is now a doctor and a co-initiator of Safe Choice, a research collaboration between the Danish Cancer Society, North Zealand Hospital and the University of Copenhagen, which aims to map out the side effects of hormonal contraception.

Neglected risks

During the summer before she even started medical school, Amani Meaidi had already associated herself with a gynaecological practice. The father of a high school friend, who was a clinical gynaecologist, was impressed by her high grades and offered her work in his clinic.

Within a short space of time, she had become acquainted with different groups of patients, and this sparked her curiosity. Now she is 32 and has a total of 13 years of experience from the clinic. And along the way she has met the kinds of challenges that neither textbooks nor research would be able to provide satisfactory answers to.

Like when she urgently had to treat a woman suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding.

An ongoing heavy menstrual bleeding requires treatment with the drug tranexamic acid. It stops the bleeding. But the medicine also has the potential side effect that blood clots can occur elsewhere in the body – like in the heart. But Amani Meaidi was unsure about how big this risk really was.

»That there was a plausible risk that the treatment of my patient could result in death, I found it very difficult to comprehend. The package insert leaflet for the medicine was of little use and there was not sufficient evidence. Why did no one set out to investigate it thoroughly?« Amani Meaidi asks, her gaze fixed.

It was this question that set off her PhD project, where Amani Meaidi examined 60,000 users of tranexamic acid. Based on solid registry data, she was able to conclude that short-term treatment with the drug was safe. In this way patient safety improved.

»I am still amazed to this day about how side effects of medications for women are so neglected in the research. This unfortunately speaks to the historical fact that with medications aimed at women, you are often only made aware of their debilitating side effects after they have come on to the market,« says Meaidi.

»And here the damage can already be irreversible,« she adds

The study earned her first place in the research communication competition PhD Cup in 2022. She had to present her research on women with heavy menstrual bleeding to an academic jury in just three minutes. Amani Meaidi had entered the competition while she was on maternity leave, and she had no expectations that her work would be so well received.

Politicized female body

Amani Meaidi says that hormonal contraception is highly politicized. She has found that it can be difficult to communicate research findings about the side effects of hormonal contraception. It is interpreted by some people as an attack on women’s sexual freedom and the right to family planning.

But women shouldn’t have to pay for their sexual freedom by gambling with their health, she says:

It really bothers me that we have accepted that women have to live with increased side effects due to hormonal contraception. I don’t think men would accept this.

Amani Meaidi


»When our research shows a possible link between hormonal contraception and a serious disorder like depression, I often experience a huge amount of suspicion towards it. Many would rather believe that other circumstances apart from birth control pills or hormonal IUDs, such as boyfriend problems, are the things that trigger depression among women.«

When a woman takes a birth control pill, she shuts down her own hormone production, and her ovaries go into hibernation. It is as if they retire, according to Amani Meaidi. This has importance for all processes in the female body, because the hormones from the ovaries affect many of the woman’s organs, from the brain to the liver.

»It really bothers me that we have accepted that women have to live with increased side effects due to hormonal contraception. I don’t think men would agree to that,« she says, and adds that if a birth control pill was developed for men, she would have great misgivings about prescribing it to her two sons.

The woman’s body, the woman’s informed choice

Amani Meaidi emphasizes that the purpose of her science is basically neither feminist nor activist. She is simply filling gaps in the existing knowledge about women’s health. She hopes to see her research giving women a better foundation for informed choices.

She is currently working on about ten projects. One of them is about abortion. About 10,000 women in Denmark have an early medical abortion every year. One of the advantages to medical abortion, rather than surgical abortion, is that there is less risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, which is one of the most frequent known causes of infertility.

Unfortunately, a proportion of medical abortions are followed up with surgery.

»I have looked into the reasons why some women who have a medical abortion still end up having surgery. And my research indicated that most surgical procedures after medical abortions are likely unnecessary and avoidable,« says Meaidi.

That is why Amani Meaidi, in collaboration with the Capital Region of Denmark, is organizing a course that has the purpose of reducing the number of unnecessary surgical procedures. Hundreds of medical professionals have completed the course since its launch, and during this time period, the number of surgical interventions has decreased significantly.

»So far, to a large extent, we have left it up to the woman to choose between the types of abortion procedure or hormonal contraception. But we are the medical experts. We need to recommend the treatment that is the gentlest. Ultimately, it is the woman’s choice. But I would like to contribute research-based knowledge to our guidelines, so that we can guide women to take better care of their bodies and health. While respecting their sexuality and their family planning.«


When Amani Meaidi has tucked her children in, she usually pulls out the computer to continue working. Her work is a hobby, and this dedication has had her colleagues telling Amani Meaidi to relax a bit.

»People ask me if these red spots on my hands are actually a stress rash. But I honestly don’t know. I haven’t diagnosed myself,« she laughs.

Her mother had to force Amani Meaidi’s siblings to do their homework during their childhood, but Amani Meaidi did them without prompting. Sometimes it was even a problem. As Amani Meaidi would rather spend time on schoolwork than, say, spending time with her family.

»I often got scolded by my mother because of my commitment. But she appreciates it nowadays,« says Amani Meaidi, and explains that her parents now live within walking distance of her own home. In this way, the grandparents relieve some of the pressure from the family with small children, so that Amani Meaidi can fully focus on her research.

»But when I look out into the world and see how Palestinian children are being killed, I want to give up on it all and go there to work as a doctor,« says Amani Meaidi.

How is your life affected by what is happening in Gaza right now?

»I am deeply saddened by the atrocities, and have been left speechless by people’s reluctance to deal with it. I cannot understand why we cannot talk openly about it,« says Amani Meaidi.

Would you rather work as a doctor in the clinic, or doing research?

»Both! You become a much better researcher when you draw on real-life experience. Ideally, I would prefer to see patients and do research. I think there are lots of women’s diseases that need further research. And I’m just getting started.«