There is growing body of research evidence suggesting that adults who have experienced childhood abuse are more likely to have health problems than those without these experiences. Since the early days of the Hysterectomy Association, over 20 years ago, there have been a significant number of women self-reporting some form of abuse in their past history.
The types of abuse they talk about ranges widely from sexual and physical to bullying, often experiencing more than one type with more than one person involved at different times of their life. These disclosures are often made in emails and conversations when discussing their life to date, rather than in the context of their hysterectomy and health problems. This anecdotal evidence is large enough that, when combined with the more formal research material we were able to find, we realised it was an issue that needed to be explored.
Currently the research literature is focused on an pretty much established link between chronic pelvic pain and childhood sexual abuse, there was little that considered this topic specifically. So, we created a new research survey to look at the most common gynaecological conditions, hysterectomy and different forms of abuse. We’d like women of all ages, in good health and bad, whether they have had a hysterectomy and whether or not they have experienced any form of abuse, to complete it. Only by surveying a large group of very different women will be able to establish if there really could be a link between experiencing abuse of some description, developing gynaecological problems and going on to have a hysterectomy.
If our survey suggests that there something to follow up, we are planning a much more robust and formal research project to look at the problems in more depth.
Without doubt, having a hysterectomy is a big decision for any woman to make; it’s major surgery that can be debilitating over weeks and months after the surgery. Whilst most women routinely recover well, a small number don’t and they often go on to develop other conditions. Perhaps, again there is a link between how well women recover and their past experiences?
We will never be able to know if experiencing abuse explicitly causes a woman to develop the conditions that can lead to a hysterectomy, but we may show there is a link. If that turns out to be the case, then it’s not unreasonable to suggest that people experiencing some form of abuse should be offered more support, that includes health monitoring, than is perhaps the case today. And perhaps, it also means that the support we offer women is as much about their past life experiences as it is about their current health issues?