Image by Michelle Waters
Facing a Hysterectomy?
You Have Options.
Carol M. Burkhart, Tracy Delaney, Maya Dexter, Eric Francis,
Adrianna Holman, Lise LePage, Susie Madrak, Pam Purdy, Jenny Singer,
Denice Taylor, and Lorin Vincent.
Editor: Jeanne Treadway
This is a resource for women facing hysterectomy, and for those who care about them. Although myriad alternative solutions are available, most women are still prescribed hysterectomies for problematic menopause, fibroids, and long-term heavy bleeding. Often allopathic practitioners are neither aware of these alternatives nor are they able to counsel women on the side effects of this invasive and traumatic surgery.
Women who are prescribed hysterectomies typically find themselves with little time to research alternatives. Their health has usually been impacted for a long time, the situation has become critical, and scouring for options can be difficult under such stressful circumstances. Where do you find information on alternatives? How can you know that source is reliable? Who can help make the decision, weigh the alternatives? What are the risks of each alternative? What are the risks and side effects of hysterectomies?
Recently, a small group, mostly women, participated in an Internet discussion concerning alternative approaches to hysterectomy as a treatment for bleeding fibroids on the Planet Waves Vision List. Within a matter of hours midwives, allopathic pratictioners, herbalists, homeopathic doctors, and health clinicians were researched and the resulting information has been edited, collated, and summarized in the following overview. Websites, books, and other readily available resources are listed; terminology is explained; options are outlined.
You will find information about the following specific topics throughout this article and in three other articles; we have summarized all identified sources in the Resources section.
- Dietary Recommendations
- Effects On Sexual Function
- Energy Work/Second Chakra
- Endometrial Ablation
- Homeopathic Medications
- Laparoscopic Supracervical Hysterectomy
- Leaving the Cervix
- Practical Tips For Healthy Surgery
Remember that holistic healing processes some are writing about are much more internally oriented, they are slower and more subtle than the sudden effects we expect to see from drug store and hospital drugs. Surgery is radical, sudden and you can't go back. Medicine can be the same way.
Herbs, homeopathic remedies, changes in diet and stress patterns, asking what your body is really telling you: all these things are subtle. They are subtle like we say and feel and hope and know women are. This is not to suggest that men are not sublime. It's to say that women possess their own tap into a deeper reality, and that may have a lot to do with carring within them some of heaven's space within their belly.
This is a holistic resource which gives much insight into allopathic medicine. Truly, allopathy would be part of any holistic means of dealing with a health concern; when we've seen a doctor we can have a sense of sureness that we would not necessarily have otherwise. We encourage you not just to go to your doctor and seek advice, but to actually have a relationship with him or her, share ideas, get together and do what some call reason.
Eric has often said that the one person women would be served well to visit when they have 'woman stuff' going on is a midwife. His feeling is that the midwife is a kind of shaman specializing in womanhood. Midwives also practice well care and, from a medically grounded and intimate standpoint, see women through all stages of their reproductive process. Midwives are tuned into the whole experience of womanhood. Fortunately they are coming back to our culture. Some of them also know pretty cool doctors.
This discussion (and the one in the resources section) is an excerpt from the Vision List. We are not always so heady (maybe one day we should publish the mindless banter, too). The participants, hopefully not leaving any out, are Denice, who happens to be a massage therapist, astrologer and a few other things; Carol, whose holistic practice is Mayan astrology; Jamie, a therapist who works with hundreds of women in prison; Susie, a writer; Gail, a midwife; Tracy, a mom; Lorin, a super new mom; Andie or Adrianna, a homeopath; Maya, a Genexhibitionist; Lise, an artist and social progress agitator; Pam, not so easy to describe; Eric, who got us going on this thread; and perhpas a few other people. These views and statements (and those in the resources guide, which is based on this section) are the opinions of their owners, though some have well-earned professional credentials and experience.
We present the discussion more or less as it happened.
Denice: Healing is not a question of having enough information; and healing doesn't guarantee the "right" answer. Healing is not external. It is not a procedure that is done to you, or a treatment that can be prescribed.
Healing is not a punishment, although it's often a challenge. Ironically, the first and hardest challenge for most women is not finding the right doctor, or naturopath, or homeopath, or shaman. It is learning to listen to what their bodies are telling them they need.
Healing is an engaged process -- of integration, of awareness, and of devotion -- whether you are healing with herbs, astrology or hysterectomy. Healing is internal, it requires accepting appropriate responsibility of all aspects of your wholeness -- body, mind and spirit.
Healing is an opportunity. At times, healing is a blessing. It can be the gift of awareness of the present tense of your breath in your chest. It can be the grace of release.
From Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, "There are many ways to heal. The right way for you is the way that feels best for you at a particular time. We must learn to see ourselves as processes -- changing and growing over time. Eventually, any externally imposed guidelines for how to become well must be consistent with our own inner guidance system. Eventually, we must learn to support ourselves through self-respect --not through restrictive regiments filled with "shoulds" and "oughts" that feel punitive."
Tracy: It is possible to remove a fibroid by performing a hysterectomy. It is also possible to remove a brain tumour by cutting your head off. The main difference being the perceived level of importance of seeking out other options. The hysterectomy may well be the easiest and most profitable solution for your doctor, but with many other less drastic options available, in both mainstream and complementary medicine, we need to ask why women are routinely prescribed uterus-removal before these are explored.
We deserve to know exactly what our other options are, why our doctors may not tell us about them, and why they may even positively discourage them. We also need to understand the context in which the uterus is deemed so easily expendable, in terms of deep-rooted attitudes towards women, their sexuality, and their creative reproductive power.
Hysterectomies were not invented by women, and that in itself allows us to feel fully entitled to question when and whether they serve us, even in the face of a sometimes intimidating medical establishment.
Susie: Back in the Baby Boomer era, when our mothers were reproducing, doctors referred to hysterectomy as "taking out the baby carriage and leaving in the playpen."
Gail: If hysterectomy is being suggested for reasons other than cancer, there are other procedures which are less invasive and may accomplish the same thing.
Lise: hyster: womb (Greek -- hystera) ectomy: to cut out (Greek -- from 'ex' meaning 'out' and 'temnein' meaning 'to cut' ). Weirdly, another Greek word 'hysteros' means 'later' as in 'later in time' or 'after'
Maya: This article isn't really all that informative as far as alternatives, but it is excellent for its take-a-deep-breath-and-get-some-perspective quality, which can be an absolutely vital tonic to the panic induced by the extreme recommendations of the allopathic medical community. It also references a couple of books:
Denice: Energetically, I think Christiane Northrup goes into the dynamics of the second chakra, and its obvious connection to creativity and fertility. My feeling is that some of the emotional/psychological effects of this kind of invasive surgery are related to the further disruption of the second chakra (granted there is already something going on). Astrologically, I think Pholus fits in here. [Pholus is mentioned lower down in the lead article at the link given above.]
Denice: Alternatives to Full Hysterectomy
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who was about 40, had large fibroids that were very painful and resulted in severe anemia. She searched hard and long for a doctor who knew the procedure to remove the fibroids while preserving the uterus. All the other doctors she had seen had recommended hysterectomy. And, the preserving procedure was not covered under my friend's health insurance.
"Recently, an old operation for removal of the uterus has been updated with modern technology, and the result is remarkable. The operation is called a "Laparoscopic Supracervical Hysterectomy." The procedure is performed through tiny incisions as previously described, but the cervix is not removed. The body of the uterus (with or without the ovaries and tubes) is removed through one of these small half-inch incisions utilizing a new high-tech instrument called a power morcellator."
"Critics of supracervical hysterectomy would suggest that leaving the cervix will predispose the patient to the development of cervical cancer. Fortunately, cervical cancer is almost 100% preventable, as long as the patient has regular screening with annual PAP smears. "
"The laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy is almost pain-free. We have been impressed by the number of patients who require very little or NO postoperative pain medication whatsoever!!! "
References to medical papers:
Laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy.
Baillieres Clin Obstet Gynaecol 1997 Mar;11(1):167-79 (ISSN: 0950-3552) Lyons TL Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory University Medical School, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Comparison of classic intrafascial supracervical hysterectomy with total
laparoscopic and laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy.
J Am Assoc Gynecol Laparosc 1998 Aug;5(3):253-60 (ISSN: 1074-3804) Kim DH; Bae DH; Hur M; Kim SH Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chung-Ang University, Pil-Dong Hospital, 82-1, 2Ga, Pil-Dong, Chung-Gu, Seoul, Korea
Laparoscopic hysterectomy. Supracervical vs. assisted vaginal.
J Reprod Med 1994 Aug;39(8):625-30 (ISSN: 0024-7758) Schwartz RO Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical College of Georgia, Atlanta
Maya: I'm not sure I understand this conclusion. Cervical cancer is, according to everything I've read, ONLY caused by HPV. If there is no presence of the HPV virus, there's no problem. Period.
Tracy: Somewhere that does it (laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy), here. Plus they do Uterine Fibroid Embolization, which is an alternative to hysterectomy for fibroids in some cases. Article here:
Embolization -- Treatment for Uterine Fibroids
A women I stayed with had this embolization surgery. She had severe anemia from the fibroids and this was not at all invasive and she was up and around within a few days of the surgery. She recommended an Interventional Radiologist here but this procedure is expensive and not always covered by insurance.
Tracy: A couple of other (mainstream medicine) alternatives:
1. Endometrial Ablation -- removal of the lining of the uterus. Not totally innocuous, still likely to render you unable to have children. Done vaginally as an outpatient procedure, 15 to 45 minutes. Details here:
http://f.about.com/z/js/spr07sm.htm/--This link is no longer working. However this link is an alternative.
2. Myomectomy -- surgical removal of individual fibroid leaving uterus intact. But they can grow back.
"Many physicians who are untrained in performing myomectomy, will opt for a hysterectomy, because their lack of experience increases the risk of complications."
Details of myomectomy here:
Lise: Herbs that are recommended for fibroid treatment and might be worth further research: Sargassum seaweed, vitex, and ginseng.
Also, warm to very warm oat baths are great for anyone, anytime, but also help reduce abdominal pain (soothing, mucilaginous). I use quick oats, bought in bulk in the whole food store. Just put a half cup to a cup in a cheese cloth bag and let it do its milky magic in your bath water. (Other benefits: softens winter dry skin, relaxes your whole body and makes you sleep well).
It appears that hormones, especially estrogen, are involved in the formation of fibroids, since the fibroids tend to reduce after menopause. So if you are close to menopause, it might be good to try some other approaches before going the radical route. And if you are taking oral contraceptives or HRT, that could be feeding the fibroid condition, since estrogen is implicated.
Short article from Susun Weed (herbalist, author of the Wise Woman books) including one on menopause and women's health):
Here's her women's health/menopause book in which she writes about fibroids, among many other things: NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way: Alternative Approaches for Women 30 -- 90, Susun S. Weed.
Also this excerpt I found poking around the web -- warning: this guy is a naturopath who also believes in a coming cataclysm as predicted (supposedly) by the Rosicrucians. So grain of salt.
The Fibroid Tumor
The fibroid tumor is a hard, benign (noncancerous) tumor that generally occurs in the uterine wall. It usually has no toxic effects on the body and causes problems only if it grows large enough to physically encroach on vital structures. If such tumors are present in the uterus as the woman approaches menopause, they may produce abnormal menstrual bleeding. At times this bleeding can be controlled only by removing the uterus. Luckily, in many cases, much less extreme measures are satisfactory. The cause of fibroid tumors remain unproven though there are many theories. Researchers in the natural field believe they may be due to certain trace mineral deficiencies. The specific trace minerals involved, however, have not been adequately verified. The ovarian hormones must play some part in their formation because as a woman goes through menopause, the fibroids present frequently retrogress and atrophy along with the normal shrinking of the uterus.
Tracy: Effects on Sexual Function
"Pelvic Surgery or Trauma: Doctors simply have a very limited understanding of the location and routing of the nerves and blood vessels that pass through the female pelvis on their way to the vagina and vulva. They simply do not know what areas to avoid when performing surgery in this area. As a result, a woman's sexual responses and feelings can be impacted by such surgeries as hysterectomy, uterine embolization, and episiotomy. In addition, injuries to the vagina during childbirth can cause damage to the vagina, and nerve and vascular damage to the vagina and clitoris. Damage to the blood vessels can affect a woman's clitoral, labial, and vaginal sensitivity and her ability to experience sexual arousal and lubrication and as a result orgasm. Removal of the uterus and cervix can change a woman's orgasms, particularly if she experiences "pelvic orgasms." Pelvic fractures and other straddles injuries may also affect the pelvic and genital organs and their blood and nerve supplies. Many doctors simply do not know pelvic surgery can have negative consequences for a woman's sexuality. They may tell women just the opposite, and adamantly stand by their convictions."
Carol: A good resource is Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Christiane Northrup, MD.
Page 194: "We now know that there is a physiological basis for decreased sexual response in some women following hysterectomy --oophorectomy. Researchers know that the androgenic hormone loss associated with the removal of the ovaries is a factor in loss of libido following surgery. Even if the ovaries are left intact, some women experience orgasm differently after hysterectomy, probably because the cervix and uterus act as a trigger point for orgasm. These women feel the deep, rhythmic contractions of the uterus as a very satisfying part of the orgasm. Once the uterus is gone, they sometimes experience the loss as a change, an actual decrease in orgasmic depth. Women who experience orgasm mainly through clitoral stimulation may not have this same experience. On the other hand, for women who have experienced pain with intercourse for years who have had pelvic pain from uterine or ovarian problems, a hysterectomy can greatly enhance the quality of their sexual experience and the overall quality of their life."
I think there is an issue of mental/emotional/physical complications because we are not given alternatives. We have choices. I think it is extremely important to find out what they are.
Tracy: In 1973, Masters observed: "Many women certainly describe cervical pressure as a trigger mechanism for kettle responsivity. These women can be and occasionally are handicapped sexually when such a trigger mechanism is removed surgically." Such orgasm has often mistakenly been referred to as "vaginal," and its existence has been challenged on the basis that the vaginal walls do not contain nerve endings. It has been postulated however, that women who experience great satisfaction when coitus involves deep vaginal penetrations, depend on some mechanism that lies outside of the vaginal walls themselves. In fact, this internal orgasm is essentially a cervical orgasm caused by stimulation of nerve endings in the uterovaginal and cervical plexus, which intimately surround the cervix and attach to the upper vagina. Since much of the sensory and autonomic information from the pelvic organs, including the uterus, is channeled through the uterovaginal plexus, it is not unreasonable to assume that stimulation of this plexus would be pleasurable. In 1966, Masters and Johnson observed from their laboratory research that during orgasm the muscle contractions in the outer third of the vagina are accompanied by rhythmic contractions of the uterus. These contractions start at the fundus and progress to the lower uterine segment and cervix. Clark and Singer pointed out that the internally induced orgasm occurs when the penis presses hard and repetitively against the cervix, causing movements of the uterus and its broad supporting ligaments. Which stimulates the surrounding peritoneal membrane, which has pleasurable sensitivity.
Thus for some women, the quality and intensity of orgasm (triggered by deep vaginal penetration) is related to the movement of the cervix and uterus. We propose that the loss of a major portion of the uterovaginal plexus through excision of the cervix is bound to have an adverse effect on sexual arousal and orgasm in women who previously experienced internal orgasm. For other women, however, orgasm is achieved mainly by the stimulation of the labia and clitoris alone (clitoral orgasm), which is triggered by the pudendal nerve. Therefore, the loss of the cervix and uterus may not have a comparable effect. Evidence that women experience one or both types of orgasm, sometimes blended, have been reported; however, the percentage of women for whom the cervix and uterus are sexually important is unknown. Furthermore, none of the investigators in the above studies have ascertained whether the cervix and uterus were important to the sexual response of the women being questioned."
Supracervical hysterectomy versus total abdominal hysterectomy: perceived effects on sexual function.î Conclusion: In summary, we found that patients who underwent a TAH (total abdominal hysterectomy) experienced worse sexual outcome than SCH (supracervical hysterectomy) patients with respect to frequency of intercourse, frequency of orgasm and overall sexual satisfaction. Our results suggest that type of hysterectomy does predict overall postoperative sexual satisfaction. Adding in the consideration of whether a BSO was performed significantly enhances this prediction. Prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings and determine the clinical impact that cervical and ovarian conservation may have for the patient
Visual Aid: http://www.ewebbmd.com/lsh.htm/
Susie: They also thought women's nervous complaints were rooted in an imbalance of energy in the womb and private parts. And thus was born the vibrator. Really.
Women were told to apply it for tension release. I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking it must have helped at least a LITTLE. LOL
Maya: Damn shame that doctors DON'T ask us if we've masturbated lately anymore when we complain of stress. Fun with old vibrators.
Denice: Although the biological function of the uterus may be primarily to provide a space for the nurturing of developing life of the fetus; when it is viewed with the perspective of the inner space of the woman as a repository for her developing life and creativity, how she experiences her life must certainly have an influence on her physical womb.
In healing second chakra disruptions, I think one of the keys is experiencing pleasure in the creative process -- stretching and exploring just because it feels good. It opens both heart centers.
Maya: Really nice article with plentiful resources, which actually mentions the fact that an ovariohysterectomy is castration:
Eric: Misinformed Consent: Women's Stories About Unnecessary Hysterectomy, by Lise Cloutier-Steele, $16.95.
Also, not sure if you know of these folks:
Carol: The womb is a woman's power center and allows a creative energy to exist far beyond her physical self. We need to honor that space within ourselves. Because of the work that I do I could never allow to have this energy source removed. Perhaps the real power struggle is this lack of honoring of the feminine.
The function of the womb in shamanic dreaming: We have six main energetic centers. Men lack one, the sixth one, the womb, which belongs to Women. This center gives women a better link to the Spirit, therefore it is easier for our sisters to progress. Men have to expend more effort to be a shaman than women. This extra effort gives them, in balance, a definitive advantage when they reach the shaman level. Men have more awareness of the different steps it takes to evolve. Florinda told us that men spend their time on details to understand. That's why they build marvelous things found in our daily world. Men are overwhelmed with what they have built. Because it is easy for women to understand (to have a direct link to the knowledge), women have more and more hidden this facility. With time, they have completely lost their talent. Socialization does restrict women to use the second function of their Womb.
The difference between male and female sorcerers in the lineage of the old Nagual is the simplest thing in the world. Like every other woman in the world, we have a womb. We have different organs from men: the uterus and the ovaries, which, according to sorcerers, make it easy for women to enter into exotic areas of awareness. According to sorcerers, there is a colossal force in the universe; a constant, perennial force which fluctuates but which doesn't change. They call this force awareness or the dark sea of awareness. Sorcerers assert that all living beings are attached to this force. They call this point of union the assemblage point. Sorcerers maintain that, due to the presence of the womb inside the body, women have the facility to displace the assemblage point to a new position.
Sorcerers say that since the male sexual organs are outside the body, men don't have the same facility. Therefore, it would be absurd for sorcerers to try to erase or cloud these energetic differences. Regarding the behavior of male and female sorcerers in the social order, it is almost the same. The energetic difference makes the practitioners, men and women, behave in different ways. In the case of sorcerers, these differences are complementary. The female sorcerers' great facility to displace the assemblage point serves as a base for male sorcerers' actions, which are characterized by greater endurance and more unyielding purpose
Denice: From Christiane Northrup, about healing with surgery:
Practical Tips for a Healthy Surgery
Understand that this surgery is a choice. If they want to cancel at the last minute because they've rethought the whole thing or it suddenly feels wrong, they should go ahead and cancel it.
For a major surgery (like a hysterectomy or myomectomy), donate two units of your own blood (unless you're too anemic), in case there is any risk of blood loss requiring transfusion.
Take the following supplements daily one month before your surgery and one month after (dosages are approximate): vitamin C complex, 2000mg; zinc picolinate, 100mg; magnesium, 800mg; and B complex, about 50mg of each. These supplements have been shown to promote wound healing.
Postoperatively, apply vitamin E oil (d alpha tocopherol) onto the incision daily, as soon as the surgical dressing is removed (if your surgeon agrees that there is no contraindication to this). This speeds healing and decreases scarring. Some women prefer aloe vera gel, calendula ointment, or other herbal treatments for this purpose.
Make arrangements for rest, food and emotional support for at least four weeks postoperatively, so that you will be free to use the post-op period to listen to your body and its needs more closely that you normally might. You'll be in a very receptive "porous" state, during which you can learn a great deal about yourself.
Notice and acknowledge whatever feelings arise after surgery. When a part of your body is removed, or when the integrity of you body surface is marred through an incision of any kind, you may need to grieve the loss of your former state.
Old memories may surface after surgery that have been stored in the tissue itself. Surgery has the potential to bring cellular memory to conscious awareness. Incest or other abuse memories may arise in the recovery room or in the days or weeks following surgery. These memories won't surface until you're ready to deal with them, so you need not worry about this. The body's wisdom about when to release information is exquisite.
Pam: Although the biological function of the uterus may be primarily to provide a space for the nurturing of developing life of the fetus, when it is viewed with the perspective of the inner space of the woman as a repository for her developing life and creativity, how she experiences her life must certainly have an influence on her physical womb.
I was diagnosed with severe dysplasia of my cervix a few years ago when I was going through a very emotionally tumultuous period in my life, a contributing factor was the use of contraceptive pills. I refused a surgical procedure knowing that my body was responding to my emotions with physical signals. As the releasing of the tension, pain, grief and views of myself that no longer serve me have occurred throughout these three years, with each testing the results have improved. My most recent test came back completely clear and normal.
Gail: I've some concerns about a surgery which removes the uterus but leaves the cervix. It may be worth the possible increase in nerve function, but there are a few things which strike me as a midwife.
Some background -- I do complete maternity care, including labor and delivery, at home, an hour and a half from a hospital. The care I provide includes lots of education, spiritual and emotional support, and nutritional counseling, which helps prevent complications in the first place. My transfer rate in labor is 2%, where most midwives in the area transport 20% of their clients.
Anyway, my intuition is highly developed, but I can't always pinpoint (or explain if I can) WHY it is I feel like something isn't right. So, bearing that in mind, here are some of my thoughts concerns about leaving the cervix:
1. Although the cervix seems like a distinct, discrete part of the uterus, and it certainly functions differently than the rest of the uterus, it is made of the same muscle. There is actually no natural place to cut it from the uterus. It would be like cutting your arm off in the middle of your biceps. To remove the uterus in its entirety would be much less risky surgically for sure, and it seems to me energetically as well.
2. If you leave the cervix, you have a direct opening into the abdominal cavity. Without the uterus as a front-line barrier, this increases the possibility of pathogens entering the body.
3. The cervix is held in place by the uterus which is held in place by the broad ligaments and the round ligaments. The cervix is sort of free-floating at the end of the uterus, so if the uterus is one, the cervix would have to be anchored to something else. My opinion is that you'd increase the risk of the cervix prolapsing out of the vagina, or that it'd be stuck to something else which could cause it to bind.
All I can tell you is there's no way in hell I'd let anybody take part of my uterus and leave the cervix, and it has nothing to do with risk of cervical cancer. I'd also never let them take my ovaries (an oophorectomy) unless they were cancerous (and maybe not even then).
A few other points: Yes, Maya, HPV has been found in every case of cervical cancer they've tested. Remember though, that NOT ALL CASES OF HPV RESULT IN CANCER! Also, pap smears don't prevent cancer, they just detect it.
Endometrial ablation, the removal of the uterine lining, would not be applicable in the case of fibroids as they involve the myometrium, or the uterine muscle itself.
As for myomectomy, some fibroids can successfully be removed. Some can not. Whether they grow back or not is a separate issue which should be addressed nutritionally, spiritually, emotionally, and probably homeopathically. By the way, the foods which contribute most significantly to fibroid growth are things that are carbonated (even water); processed and preserved foods, especially nitrites; and caffeine. Coffee will also increase the bleeding within five minutes of drinking it. Decaf isn't much better.
Homeopathy is good. My experience is that using ferrum phos, 6X-30C on a daily basis will help the absorption of any iron the woman is taking. I've measured the difference with blood work. I don't know if it would be counter to a constitutional. I had a case of a serious postpartum hemorrhage once where the woman did not respond to IV therapy or any drug I gave her, and just as I was getting ready to call an ambulance to transport her I gave her a dose of Sabina and her bleeding was stopped within two minutes.
The herbal iron supplement I'd recommend is called Floradix. If the woman is seriously anemic however, she probably needs more than herbs. Most drug-store prescription iron is constipating and not very absorbable. A good one to try instead, if you can get it, is Ferrasorb by Thorne. A therapeutic dose of iron will make your stool black.
Uterine embolization is definitely a less invasive and lower risk option to hysterectomy. It is basically cauterization of the uterine arteries, which cuts off most of the blood supply. It is not entirely benign though. Of course we all have our horror stories, but I had a friend who had it done who ended up the next day with a pulmonary embolism and was barely saved. (She thought the near-death experience was worth it though.)
Maya: >Yes, Maya, HPV has been found in every case of cervical cancer they've tested. Remember though, that NOT ALL CASES OF HPV RESULT IN CANCER! Also, pap smears don't prevent cancer, they just detect it.< You're right, Gail, this is an extremely important distinction. It's one of those things I have come to take for granted in my own story with HPV, but I should not assume everyone knows. That's how misinformation happens. Thanks for clarifying.
An interesting side note: as I have dealt with all the guilt and secrets in my life, my menstrual cycle has changed quite a bit -- less bleeding, shorter duration, less intense cramps. The emotional factor is definitely not to be overlooked.
Also, this website is a huge resource for medical info on hysterectomy alternatives:
Andie: I absolutely agree that the fibroids have an emotional connection. And I think this will require careful questioning and analysis on the part of the patient and whomever she has helping her to find the root cause, as it has been 'growing' for some time. In my last email I did not mean to discredit the emotions, especially when connected to the uterus. However, when given time constraints, such as trying to avoid surgery, I look to the physical first, just as Gail gave the Sabina to stop the bleeding in her patient. Then, once the physical body has settled down, I look to possible energetic and emotional connections to the original complaint.
Jamie: Something called uterine oblation is also available. Also highly recommended is a diet including lots of soy. Can work to reduce and even eliminate fibroids. Topic at last week's women's meeting. Her doctor, a woman, was recommending hysterectomy, and only when asked specifically if anything else would be helpful did she mention the soy connection. Asian women following traditional tofu-rich diet having very few fibroid complications, and so forth.
Carol: Wow -- I have always thought exactly the opposite... but I guess it depends--in some women soy phytoestrogens will actually exert their own estrogenic effect and help to feed the fibroid.
Here are some dietary recommendations:
For most women, however, lowering circulating estrogen levels, promoting healthy ovulation and increasing liver function is enough to keep uterine fibroids in check. "You just try to get women through perimenopause into menopause when their estrogen levels will drop naturally," says Susan Lark, MD. "At that point the tumors tend to shrink and become less active, because there is not enough estrogen to keep them growing and bleeding."
Susan Lark, MD, Fibroid Tumors and Endometriosis, Celestial Arts, 1995.
Reducing estrogen levels in the body means avoiding foods that have an estrogenic effect such as dairy products, red meats, and for some women, soy foods. Other substances such as alcohol, caffeine, saturated fats, white sugar and tobacco should also be avoided because of their ability to prevent the liver from efficiently processing estrogen and progesterone out of the body, which then allows these hormones to actually feed the fibroids.
"One or two days a month, a woman with fibroids should do a modest fast during which she eats only brown rice and steamed vegetables and drinks fruit juices in order to keep her body cleansed," says Lellman. Leaning toward a more vegetarian diet full of green, leafy vegetables and liver-cleansing foods like artichokes and black radishes will not only help cleanse the body, but it will regulate hormone levels.
In addition, supplementing with flax oil, bioflavonoids, fiber, vitamin C and the B vitamins will help curb bleeding tendencies and promote healthy ovulation. "American women have more female health issues than women in other cultures who eat 'closer to the earth,'" says Lark. "Women eating a diet that is centered on legumes, seeds and grains have lower circulating estrogen levels, and therefore less problems."
Gail: I'll tell you now that an herbal approach using equal parts of trillium and shepherds purse tincture will stop fibroid bleeding about 90% of the time in one to two doses.
Sheila Kitzinger lives in London. She has written about 20 books on women's issues, specifically sexuality, pregnancy, birth and the postpartum. Marsden Wagner is another good reference for these kinds of things. He in an MD (perinatologist) who was for quite a while the director of women's health at WHO. He is an expert witness frequently called to address the issues regarding quality of care, practice standards, and evidence based practice vs. the "community standard of care" which is determined by the good old boys on their way to play golf.
Carol: Hello again. One of the reasons given to me by this doctor (a women) was that the hysterectomy was easier because it was a standard procedure and covered by insurance. She said she could do the alternative procedure (myomectomy) which cuts into the uterus and removes the fibroid(s) only. She said it was a long operation and the amount of time under anesthesia was dangerous. I understand that the less invasive, the less recovery time. So it seems that time is only relative to the doctor and not the patient. That is certainly one problem.The next procedure is laproscopic surgery, which is a much smaller incision. But the amount of time it takes often is another excuse for doctors not to recommend it.
Given the surgical options and only after trying alternative treatments (herbs, acupuncture, etc.) I would probably opt for this. And go to someone who has
been doing it for awhile. Currently I have been using vibrational medicine, herbs and a series of planetary tuning forks to work with the issue.
Astrologically I am pretty certain this has come to my attention as transiting Chiron entered my fourth house (the womb of the chart) and is now applying/conjunct to my moon. I have a Chiron/Pholus conjunction natally and there does seem to be a Pholus kind of energy somewhere in this. Neptune was on that spot and I had been dealing with Pholus square Pholus as well. [Pholus is mentioned lower down in the lead article at the link given above.]
Some more notes from the Christiane's book: Interesting about the whole energy of these kind of issues. It seems we really need to go there first to understand why we manifest these things. I find it amazing to think of the womb as this energetic creational vortex that has its own space that is separate from the rest of the body. Almost like an intercepted house in our astrological chart.
When we separate ourselves from our bodies everything is thrown out of balance. I think this is the problem with taking things away --physically--before we have dealt with the original energy on those mental/emotional levels-- we need to address the vibrational energy that began the process in the first place.
Caroline Myss teaches that fibroid tumors represent our creativity that has never birthed, including "fantasy" images of ourselves that have never seen the light of day and creative secrets of our other "selves." Fibroids also result when we are flowing life energy into dead ends, such as jobs or relationships that we have outgrown. I ask women with fibroids to mediate on their relationships with other people and how they express their creativity. Fibroids are often associated with conflicts about creativity, reproduction and relationships."
Options to Hysterectomy Index
Space graphic above from the Rosette Nebula in Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Sulfur.
Credit: T. A. Rector, B. Wolpa, M. Hanna.