Everyone faces health issues, but the medical issues of women are especially interesting. Because the medical world has been determined and dominated by males, women have only recently been able to have a voice in the procedures performed on them. Naturally, this lack of representation and understanding has posed some problems. This, plus everyday medical issues involving Big Pharma and a lack of reform in medical education and medicinal approaches have snowballed into one hot mess.
Sadly, we can’t count on doctors to be upfront about the facts around modern female procedures. If you or a woman you know is facing the possibility of “relatively safe and common” procedures like C-section, Dilation & Curettage, Hysterectomy, Induction, or Mastectomy, then there are important facts and risks you need to know.
With over 26 percent of Canadian births and over 30 percent of American births performed via C-section, this major surgery has become common practice. Over a million women undergo the procedure each year, so the risks or complications of a C-section seem rather low. Of course, there are risks. These risks are especially relevant because WHO estimates that “medically necessary” C-sections should be around 10-15 percent. Why are Canada and America double the recommended rate, and why would WHO set this rate at 10-15 percent? The stats below will shed light on that:
- Known C-section complications include postpartum hemorrhage, infection, organ damage, blood clots, dangerous reaction to anesthesia, emergency hysterectomy, and problematic scar tissue which can cause problems in future pregnancies and births.
- In 2013, the CDC compiled data for their report When Are Babies Born: Morning, Noon, Or Night? According to their data, the majority of hospital births took place between the hours of 8am and 5pm, while non-hospital births were more likely to occer between 11pm and 5am. What’s especially of interest here are C-section births. Birth for women who had attempted labor but ended up delivering by c-section tended to happen between 3pm and 11pm. C-section births with labor attempted reached their highest peak between 5 and 6pm. Based on this data, time of day may actually be a risk factor for C-section delivery.
- One of the most common problems that arise after C-sections are adhesions within the pelvic region. Adhesions of the bladder, uterus, ovaries, and/or fallopian tubes can lead to chronic pelvic pain, and the risk of developing these painful adhesions rise with every C-section a woman has. Aside from the debilitating pain, adhesions come with even more risks when they involve the fallopian tubes. Scar tissue within the tubes can impede the movement of ovulated eggs. This can lead to infertility or, even worse, a dangerous ectopic pregnancy.
- According to Healthline, for every 1,000 C-sections, there will be two women who end up back in the operating room. This time, for an incisional hernia (as in, the intestines protrude outside the abdominal gap caused by the cutting of the abdomen). Ironically, this reparative surgery could land a woman in surgery yet again because of hernia mesh complications.
- A study from Obstetrics And Gynecology looked at births from 2002-2008 found that half of the mothers given C-sections for “Failure to Progress” hadn’t even dilated to 6 centimeters. Translation? They were still in the inconsistent stages of early labor and hadn’t even entered the phase of active labor.
- Pregnant women are often given C-sections when their physician thinks they are carrying a large baby due to the fear of stillbirth and shoulder dystocia (stuck shoulders). Rebecca Decker of Evidence Based Birth found nine different studies on large babies which found that a physician’s suspicion of a large baby led to higher rates of induction, cesarean, and stalled labor than did the birth of a large baby who was not anticipated to be large. One study from 2008 found the greatest risks were with women who doctors suspected to be carrying large babies and who had been consulted on the issues of large babies. Compared to women who birthed big babies that went unsuspected and unconsulted, the consulted women had three times the rate of induction and C-section, and four times the rate of maternal complications.
- Another study which Rebecca Decker makes reference to looked at the type of birth for large babies. This study found that the rate of vaginal births for unsuspected big babies was 91 percent, while the rate for suspected big babies was only 52 percent. This is particularly distressing because fewer than 8 percent of babies are born large (over 8 lbs 13 oz). Yet the national birth survey Listening To Mothers reveals that 4 out of 5 women given a C-section for a suspected large baby ended up delivering babies which were under 8 lbs 13 oz. Ultrasounds are notoriously inaccurate at measuring third trimester fetal weight, and medical literature states as much. Have doctors missed the memo?
D&C (Dilation And Curettage)
A Dilation and Curettage procedure — or D&C — is a process where the cervix is opened manually by placing larger and larger rods into it until the opening reaches the desired size. From there, the lining of the uterus is “scraped” with a spoon-like tool known as a curette. It’s most often performed to clear the uterus of tissues that remain after birth or miscarriage. A D&C may also be done to remove polyps of the cervix or uterus, or to determine causes of infertility or abnormal bleeding. A spoon to the uterus sounds like a fairly gentle procedure, but there are more risks than meet the eye (or ear) of patients.
- Complications of D&C include heavy bleeding, infection, rupture of the uterus or bowels. Women who receive a D&C are also at high risk of developing adhesions within the uterus, which put women at risk of infertility, irregular menstruation, and miscarriage.
- A 2014 review and meta-analysis by Human Reproduction Update evaluated the occurrence of intrauterine adhesions after a miscarriage. Of the 912 women surveyed, 19 percent had developed adhesions. The risk of adhesions were even higher among women who had gone through two or more miscarriages. It may be that adhesions are a common side effect of miscarriage, but according to the authors, “the number of dilatation and curettage (D&C) procedures seemed to be the main driver behind these associations.”
- The D&C procedure can be performed in 15 minutes or less, but this quick process is estimated to be billed at $4,000-9,000 dollars. In some cases, D & C charges may total $15,000 or more. However this procedure can be performed by a doctor outside of the hospital for about half the price.
- Women who have been diagnosed as having remaining tissue in their uterus after miscarriage have alternatives to D&C such as “expectant care” (waiting for the body to expel the pregnancy on its own), or using the drug misoprostol to stimulate the emptying of the uterus. There are also natural alternatives which, when used under the the direction and recommendations of a professional, can promote the clearing of the uterus such as emmenagogue herbs (that stimulate menstruation), oxytocic herbs (that stimulate contractions and oxytocin production), and homeopathic medicines such as Sabina and Sepia.
- A study published by the European Society Of Human Reproduction And Embryology looked at the risks of D&C with pregnancy by reviewing twenty one different studies which included more than two million women. Their analysis concluded that pregnant women who had undergone a D&C procedure prior to pregnancy were 29 percent more likely to give birth before 37 weeks, and 69 percent more likely to give birth before 32 weeks. This kind of information is something that women should have before their doctor ever pulls out the curette.
A hysterectomy involves the removal of reproductive organs. Generally, it involves part or all of the uterus, and sometimes the cervix. In rarer cases like cancer, it could involve all the organs and tissues within the reproductive region. They have been performed for cancer, uterine prolapse, and abnormal bleeding. Doctors have also used them to “treat” endometriosis, pelvic pain, fibroids, and uterine issues. It’s been performed on millions of women, but hysterectomies aren’t without their issues.
- Potential complications of hysterectomy include urinary incontinence, fistula disease, prolapse of the pelvic organs, bowel dysfunction, organ damage, blood clots, heavy bleeding, and infection. A hysterectomy especially puts women at risk of developing painful pelvic adhesions. Women who have their ovaries removed will require regular hormone therapy to prevent them from going into early menopause.
- Once the uterus is removed from the body, organs naturally fill up the space that the uterus no longer takes. When the bowels move down into this new free space, they can take a new shape and cause what’s called a Rectocele (bulging of the bowels). This makes bowel issues like constipation likely, but it may also up their odds of disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and anal incontinence.
- Many hysterectomies are performed to “treat” or “prevent” cancer of the reproductive organs. That comes as no surprise given the modern health system, but what’s truly shocking is that hysterectomies are being recommended by doctors for abnormal or heavy periods, uterine fibroids, and painful pelvic conditions like endometriosis. All conditions are caused by — and healed by — environment, diet, and lifestyle. Yet hysterectomies are being prescribed in place of reputable medicinals like vitex, cramp bark, black haw, maca, red raspberry leaf, licorice root, white peony, and cod liver oil. They may not be able to be turned into a pharmaceutical pill or costly procedure, but they all have a rep for enhancing uterine health and function or supporting hormone balance (or both).
Induction has become staple in the modern birthing process. According to 2015 data from the CDC, of the 3.98 million registered births during the year, nearly 24 percent were induced. Considering that puts the inductions for a single year at over 946,000, we would deduce that such a procedure is as common as it is safe. However, there are major risks with induction via pitocin which doctors fail to explain to parents. Unless a mother is facing a medical condition where induction is absolutely warranted, there are consequences which expectant women need to weigh out.
- The Institute For Safe Medication Practices has pitocin listed as #7 on their list of High Alert Medications.
- Pitocin has long been rumored to increase the risks of postpartum hemorrhage. One study affirms these rumored pitocin risks, showing that women whose labor was induced or augmented via pitocin had significantly higher rates.
- In a presentation at the 13th annual conference of Challenging Topics in Ob/GYN, Obstetrician Heidi Leftwich shared that synthetic oxytocin “remains the drug most commonly associated with preventable adverse events during childbirth.”
- In natural spontaneous birth, oxytocin is released in periodic pulses which fluctuate in concentration. In pitocin-induced births, synthetic oxytocin is released continuously, with the concentration determined by the professional manning the drip. Because of this, the contractions are longer, harder, and closer together. These intense contractions naturally reduce blood flow to the placenta, which naturally reduce the oxygen being delivered to baby.
- Pitocin puts mothers and babies at risk of tachysystole (overstimulation of the uterus). This stimulation causes aggressive and frequent contractions which put birthing mothers at risk of uterine rupture, placental abruption, postpartum hemorrhaging, and hypotension. Tachysystole also poses dangers to baby by increasing the chances of acidemia, asphyxia, hypoxemia, brain damage, and even death. A 2013 retrospective study by the American Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynecology, experts looked at births involving over 48,000 women from a single hospital. They found that the use of pitocin doubled the risk of tachysystole.
- Women are often induced because they have “gone over” their due date. The trouble with due dates is that they are an estimate (thus the term EDD), and they’re based on the date of a woman’s last menstrual period. In this estimation, it’s assumed that a woman has a 28 day cycle, that she ovulates on the 14th day after the start of her period, and that the embryo implants in the uterus 6-10 days after ovulation. As you might imagine, this is not the case for every women. A study by the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics found that the most accurate method for determining an approximate date was an ultrasound performed at 11-14 weeks of pregnancy. However, it’s important to know that their study showed that 68 percent of women had given birth within 11 days of their given date. First trimester ultrasound dating may be more accurate, but it’s far from being exact or precise.
When a woman has breast cancer or she is considered high-risk of developing it, mastectomy is used as a preventative option or a treatment for cancer. Many women have accepted the removal of one or both breasts in place of the fright of cancer. Sadly, recent studies and spotlights show that mastectomies are not all that they have been reputed to be.
- Mastectomy complications include numbness or increased sensitivity around the incision, fluid collection (via hematoma or seroma), development of painful and uneven scar tissue, infection, and a wound which is not quick nor easy to heal.
- Mastectomies have been used as a critical procedure in “curing” breast cancer. However, a retrospective study by Dutch researchers shows that, compared to other conventional cancer treatments, a mastectomy offers no benefits.
- The public has the impression that removal of the breasts will prevent cancer from forming, but this is not the case. A Dutch study from 2010 estimated that around 40 percent of women have their breast cancer return for a second battle. This risk is lower for women with mastectomies, however, the Susan G. Komen foundation estimates that women who have cancer present in their lymph nodes at the time of mastectomy have a 23 percent chance of recurring breast cancer. Poisoning the body and slicing up tissues are far from being a cancer fix. Holistic cancer treatments may not be so crazy after all.
- Mastectomies are a final step in a series of medical procedures. In the conventional world, it begins with a mammogram. Mammograms are advertized as life-saving tools but, ironically, they work through high doses of cancer-causing ionizing radiation. This shocking risk is frightening enough, but the stats and studies on this “vital preventative tool” reveal that mammograms put women at risk of overdiagnosis, overtreatment, inaccurate results, and emotional damage from false-positive testing. It might be worth it if the benefits outweighed the risks, however, a Canadian retrospective study on nearly 90,000 women revealed that mammograms had no impact on the number of deaths from cancer. Because of the issues with mammograms, women would be wise to gain a second opinion and consider alternative cancer-diagnosing options before turning to breast removal.
Have you or someone you know gone through the procedures above? Did the benefits supersede the potential risks? Don’t be afraid to tell your story so you can help others be aware of the risks of these procedures.
The Global Numbers And Costs Of Additionally Needed And Unnecessary Cesearean Sections Performed Per Year: Overuse As A Barrier To Universal Coverage — WHO
Primary Cesarean Delivery In The United States — Obstetrics And Gynecology
Prevention And Management Of Postpartum Hemorrhage — American Academy of Family Physicians
Oxytocin As A High Alert Medication: Implications For Perinatal Patient Safety — The American Journal Of Maternal/Child Nursing
Surgical Adhesions From Gynecological Surgery — HealthyWomen.org
Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Intrauterine Adhesions After Miscarriage: Prevalence, Risk Factors, And Long-Term Reproductive Outcome — Oxford Academic
When A Baby Isn’t So Big — NY Times
Complications Of Surgical Hernia Mesh Products — Baron & Budd
How Blood Clots Happen — Zendy Health
How To Reduce The Damaging Effects Of PCOS On Fertility Through Diet And Herbs — Natural Fertility Info
Induction Of Labor And Risks Of Postpartum Hemorrhage In Low-Risk Parturients — PLOS One
Tachysystole In Term Labor: Incidence, Risk Factors, Outcomes, And Effects On Fetal Heart Tracings — American Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynecology
Listening To Mothers Reports And Surveys — National Partnership For Women & Families
Overview Of Intrauterine Adhesions — VeryWell.com
Minor Obstetric And Gynecologic Procedure Linked To Increased Risk Of Preterm Delivery — Science Daily
How To Have A Natural Miscarraige (No D&C) — The Healthy Home Economist
Reproductive Medicine And It’s Procedures — New Hope Fertility
How To Ease Ailments With Swimming Pool Exercise — Blue Haven
What If Everything Your Doctors Told You About Breast Cancer Was Wrong — Mother Jones
Women With Breast Cancer Are Told: You DON’T Need A Mastectomy — Daily Mail
Delayed Wound Healing — BreastCancer.org
Twenty Five Year Followup For Breast Cancer Incidence And Mortality Of The Canadian National Breast Screening Study — British Medical Journal