Do women really get the whole truth about hysterectomy before consenting to this all-too common procedure? I know I didn't.
Nora Coffey, head of the HERS foundation, has been convinced for years that women do not realize that they will certainly lose some sexual feeling; will likely have problems with their bladders and bowels; that they may suffer back pain and see their waists enlarge as their internal organs and bones shift in place because where their uterus used to be is now an empty space. In the years since I underwent a hysterectomy in my mid-40s, I have suffered all of these symptoms, and my doctor never mentioned a single one. (It was a woman, by the way.)
On Friday, April 24, the foundation will hold its 28th Hysterectomy Conference at the Hilton New York Hotel in Manhattan to focus attention on an effort to require that women learn about all the possible consequences of hysterectomy before consenting to the procedure. The conference will feature an Indiana state legislator who is the first to introduce legislation requiring such disclosure.
And, the keynote address will be given by U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York who will reportedly raise the issue of unnecessary hysterectomies in the House-Senate Joint Economic Committee, which she chairs. Experts estimate the cost of unnecessary hysterectomies at $17 billion a year.
I'll be covering the meeting for womensenews, a non-profit that specializes in news of particular interest to women.
But in this case, I certainly think that men would like to know about a medical procedure that will most definitely affect their sex lives along with their female partners!
The HERS foundation is advocating that women be required to view an 11-minute video it produced before consenting to hystserectomy. The video shows in a very matter-of-fact manner, using only color diagrams and voice-over-text, the story of female anatomy that somehow got left out of all our high school health classes.
"Women who watch that get it: they understand this is very serious surgery," says Coffey, who believes requiring the video is the only way to bring down the number of women who lose their uterus every year. As I've blogged about before, an astounding one out of every three American women have had surgery to remove their uterus by the time they are 60, and of those, 75% also lose their ovaries, the equivalent of male castration.
There is precedent for requiring the showing of videos: Utah, for example, requires women who are seeking an abortion to see one. Drug companies are required to put informative inserts into packages of medication, for example in birth control pills, thanks to the historic efforts of women's advocates including Barbara Seaman.
Losing your uterus is not like losing a tooth. Lose a tooth, and you can still chew with the others or get a false one to take its place. Each woman get's only one uterus, and it's so much an integral part of our bodies that you don't even realize you'll miss it until it's gone. And then, it's too late.