For many years, hysterectomies have been presented by gynaecologists as the ideal, routine, easy, and problem-free solution to women’s health issues. That is far from the truth. The following facts, briefly outlined here, are provided by the HERS Foundation (Hysterectomy Educational Resources and Services — www.hersfoundation.org). Hysterectomies are the #1 gynaecological surgery in America, and one in every three women will be hysterectomized by the age of 60; statistically, it’s another woman every minute.
98% of all hysterectomies in America are unnecessary. A gynaecologist should not perform more than one or two in his or her entire career, instead of three times a week as is now the case.
A hysterectomy destroys a woman’s figure. The uterus knits together the pelvic (hip) bones. When it is removed, they slowly pull apart, and within a year the hips are two sizes larger. The rib cage sinks to rest directly on top of the hips; she no longer has a waist. The backbone compresses over time; she loses height. Her belly (the pelvis) is pushed forward. A 25-pound weight gain in the first year after hysterectomy is typical.
The uterus separates the bladder and intestines. When it is removed, the bladder prolapses (sags from its normal position) and the intestines migrate down to rest on top of the vagina and against the bladder. This can alter the function of both organs, sometimes causing urinary incontinence, and constipation or intestinal incontinence. In plain language, a woman may have trouble in the bathroom or she may need to go to the bathroom more often than normal.
Without her uterus, a woman is three times more likely to develop heart disease, and without her ovaries as well, five times more likely. No wonder fatal heart attacks are increasing among American women.
In women who experienced orgasm, hysterectomies, whether they include removal of the uterus only or both uterus and ovaries, always limit a woman’s ability to have the physical feelings she wants to have during sex. In fact, the medical term for removal of the ovaries, the female gonads, is “castration.”
Sometimes, the femoral (thigh) nerve is damaged, so that a woman cannot walk without a cane. Another very frequent effect is profound fatigue and chronic pain. These are lifelong problems. Many women lose their vitality and become depressed. Some commit suicide.
Gynaecologists commonly tell women nothing about the known problems caused by the surgery. They cajole, frighten or bully them into being hysterectomized. Insurance companies pay doctors the same for hysterectomies as for surgery that keeps the uterus intact. Alternative surgery often requires more time and skill, and the “everybody’s-doing-it” attitude prevails. Often no surgery is needed.
No woman should sign a surgical consent form unless her doctor has told her about ALL of the effects of hysterectomy, as well as the alternatives, with the alleged advantages and known risks. Congress must be pressed to pass legislation requiring that women be fully informed – NOW.
A New Yorker since 1967, Reed College graduate Carol F. Yost recently retired from a job as procedure writer for the NYC Human Resources Administration. She lives near the former St. Vincent’s site and took part in the fight to save the hospital.
In 1993, after seeing 12 doctors, Ms. Yost found one with the skills and determination necessary to remove her uterine fibroids without also taking out her uterus and ovaries. Doctors had pressured her to have a hysterectomy. The operation was successful, but this doctor demanded a large fee that exceeded the insurance payment and strained the author’s meager resources. After threatening to garnishee her wages, the doctor finally accepted a monthly payment plan.
Ms. Yost has been writing politicians and women’s organizations to try to stop unnecessary hysterectomies.
For more information and for documentation on hysterectomies, please visit the HERS website. There you may also obtain The H Word, an excellent book by Nora W. Coffey and Rick Schweikert.