Are you considering a hysterectomy? Have you been advised to have one? Do you think hysterectomies aren’t an important issue?
Consider these facts:
- One out of three women’s sex organs are removed by the age of 60, and one out of two by age 70
- The average age a woman undergoes hysterectomy is 36 years old
- Hysterectomy has a wide range of physical, emotional, and sexual consequences and side-effects
- The “informed consent” process often fails, because women often are not apprised of the conservative alternatives and the potential consequences prior to the surgery
- Hysterectomies are a $17 billion industry in the U.S
When Nora Coffey was 36 years old, she underwent an unwarranted and non-consentual hysterectomy and castration at the hands of a colleague and social friend at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. “I did all the right things, I sought five opinions, and as a research assistant at Penn, I knew the right questions to ask,” she says. “But what I did not know for close to two years that the answers I was given to my good questions were false.”
When I developed debilitating symptoms and experienced a loss of physical sexual feeling after the surgery doctor after doctor told me it had nothing to do with hysterectomy. I wasn’t sure if I was the only woman to experience serious problems, and I only knew one woman who had had the surgery. She said she felt great, that it was the best thing she had ever done. I decided that I had to try and find out if there was anyone else with these problems, so I put a one line ad in the classified section of Ms. Magazine that said “Author writing a book about hysterectomy would like a response to a Confidential questionnaire.” 600 women responded. 425 women filled out and returned my 43 page questionnaire, some adding as many as ten pages of additional comments. I knew then that I was not alone, that there many other women living with the often devastating adverse effects of this surgery. Some of their problems were not as bad as mine, some worse, and there was everything in between.
Following these experiences, in 1982, Nora founded the Hysterectomy Education Resources and Services Foundation (HERS Foundation) to meet the need for complete, accurate information about the alternatives to and adverse effects of hysterectomy. HERS has counseled over 800,000 women. Ninety-eight percent of the women HERS has referred to board certified gynecologists after being told they needed hysterectomies discovered that, in fact, they did not need hysterectomies.
Consequences of hysterectomy include tripling a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease, likely reduction of sexual enjoyment, and bowel and bladder problems. When the ovaries are removed, a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease is seven times greater than women without the surgery.
The feedback HERS receives from Women is telling. Here are some samples:
I really wish I would have found your website before I had my surgery. I had a complete hysterectomy 3 years ago for precancerous cells on my cervix. I was only 33. During one of my checkups after the surgery she said she had gotten all the cancer cells when the cold knife cone was done, I was stunned. The surgery was unnecessary.
All I want to say is thank you thank you for the website from keeping me from making the biggest mistake of my life me.
Hi… I had two c sections in 2002 and 2003. I have never felt quite right since the second delivery and now experience extreme abdominal pain on my lower left side with dull pain radiating upward and around to my back. I would like to talk with someone about my symptoms. I am scared.
Of course all the doctors are telling me I need a hysterectomy, but I refuse to have one, I know I can have another myomectomy. I have also had an ablation, which seems to have made things worse, and I have been hospitalized for transfusions twice in the past 2 yesrs secondary to menorrhagia.
The HERS foundation is like “the beacon of light from a far off lighthouse seen by a weary sailor lost a sea”.
In addition to all of the information available at the website, HERS offers telephone counseling, woman-to-woman networking, and physician referral. Nora has also co-written The H Word, which discusses common reasons hysterectomy is recommended, diagnostic studies that should be performed, alternatives in treatment and their risks, and strategies for coping with the lifelong aftereffects of removal of the uterus and ovaries.
What HERS asks of the rest of us is simple: begin talking about hysterectomies. For hysterectomies as for Cesareans, tonsillectomies, episiotomies, and circumcisions, let us ask ourselves and physicians: How could so many surgeries be beneficial?