Use this interactive map to find women’s health resources all across the United States.
What is Obstetric and Gynecologic Violence and What Can I Do About It?
Obstetric and gynecologic violence occur when a woman is treated without respect or undergoes unnecessary harmful treatment. Specific examples include, but are not limited to:
-Medical students perform practice pelvic examinations on an anesthetized woman undergoing surgery, without her knowledge and permission
-A woman receives an episiotomy during childbirth despite stating that she does not consent to being cut
-A healthcare provider examines a woman vaginally during labor without asking permission or informing the woman why an exam is necessary
-The overuse and harm of hysterectomy
-Refusal of ob/gyn specialty to teach uterine-sparing myomectomy
-A woman is hysterectomized and castrated for a benign ovarian cyst
-A woman is humiliated for asking her healthcare provider questions about a recommended course of treatment
-A woman has her sanity questioned because a diagnosis for her condition isn’t readily found
-A woman is denied adequate relief for painful medical procedures
This type of behavior is “normalized” in the medical profession (doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses may have been taught that it is OK to treat women this way because “the doctor knows best”).
Not sure what your rights are? The Rights of the Childbearing Woman gives a clear summary of what your rights are during birth. If you feel your rights have been violated, you click on your state to find out where you can report acts of obstetric or gynecologic violence.
USA Today recently reported that US hospitals are still performing excessive numbers of episiotomies (a cut of the tissue between the vagina and anus) during childbirth, despite evidence that they are rarely necessary and may result in problems with wound healing, pain during intercourse, leaking urine, prolapse of the pelvic organs, and damage to the rectal area.
It was once believed that the perineum (tissue between the vagina and the anus) was like a “battering ram” on the baby’s head during the birthing process, and that an episiotomy would relieve pressure on the baby and help the mother avoid a severe tear. In recent years, research has shown that episiotomy is harmful when used indiscriminately. In most cases, episiotomy should be used only if necessary to help the baby be born quickly, such as when the heart rate drops very low, and the perineal tissues are not stretching fast enough for baby to be born quickly.
Read more about the USA Today report here.
Gynecologic overtreatment that causes more harm than good is an epidemic in the U.S. As cited in Reassessing Hysterectomy, less than 8% of hysterectomies are done for a cancer diagnosis. Hence, more than 90% are unnecessary. The oophorectomy (ovary removal / castration) rate is 73% of the hysterectomy rate despite the rarity of ovarian cancer. Endometrial ablation is another harmful procedure that oftentimes leads to hysterectomy due to resulting chronic pelvic pain. Tubal sterilization, with or without Essure coils, has also been proven harmful.
The non-profit HERS Foundation is dedicated to providing women with the information needed to make an informed decision about gynecologic treatments. Ovaries for Life is an excellent resource for understanding the many medically documented adverse effects of ovary removal.
If you have experienced gynecologic or obstetric violence or overtreatment, we urge you to report it using the resources on the interactive map.