Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ashley's Story

When a pregnant woman enters a hospital to give birth, she expects that she will leave there with her baby in her arms, and her uterus in her body. While most women do leave the hospital with their baby, many leave without their womb.

The mixture of joy when she looks at her healthy infant, and the pain and suffering of the loss of her reproductive sex organ, is irreconcilable. Well meaning family and friends try to be kind and comforting when they tell her how lucky she is to have a healthy baby, especially if she has other children. And because her loss is not visible, family and friends may not know or understand the profound physical and life altering changes she is experiencing. It is often lonely and isolating. It would help to listen when she talks about how she feels, and to validate her experience by telling her that you’re sorry this was done to her. The usual platitudes, “you’ll be okay”, or “you’re so lucky the baby is healthy” or “you’re lucky to be alive” are a denial of what she’s going through.

The following is the experience of Ashley Shewman, a woman who believes that if she had had better medical treatment during her pregnancy, and a C-section delivery, her uterus would still be where it belongs, in her body.

Ashley Shewman’s Story

Deciding to have another child was a hard decision for me, and my husband. At that time we had a very challenging four-year-old, and although the pregnancy was perfect, I hemorrhaged after labor and required a blood transfusion and a Dilation and Curettage (D&C).  I remember the doctors telling me if the surgery didn’t work that they would have to give me a hysterectomy.  My eyes filled with tears and within seconds I was sleeping – and undergoing surgery. I did not know if I would wake up with my husband telling me that we can not have anymore children or if the D&C was a successful treatment.

That time it was. 

When we decided to have another child things were a little different. I was 29 years old. At the beginning of my pregnancy I started to bleed. I thought I was having a miscarriage and was ordered to bed rest for a week. My next doctor’s visit went fine and I heard a strong heartbeat.

Throughout my pregnancy I bled often and changed my OB to a high risk doctor. They found out that I had a condition called Placenta Praevia, where the placenta is attached to the uterine wall, close to or covering the cervix, which can cause massive bleeding during a vaginal delivery. It sometimes occurs in the latter part of the first trimester, but usually during the second or third. I visited the doctor more often than normal and was told that if it didn’t improve, I would need a c-section.  During the second trimester everything seemed fine and I was back to normal.
I wasn’t even eight months pregnant and went into labor.  I was seven weeks early - in the hospital dilating - and there was nothing they could do to stop or slow down the contractions. Ella May was born vaginally,on May 4, 2008 at 2:47 am and went straight to the NICU. The doctors decided to give me a D&C after birth just to be sure there was no more placenta. I remember feeling really sluggish and tired after going home. I thought that after a few days I would feel better physically but I never did.
Ella was a month old when I hemorrhaged again. Blood was everywhere and I remember thinking, “Does this happen to someone twice? Am I going to die? Is this it?”

I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. That was the longest night of my life. In the emergency room I sat in the bed bleeding on and off, speaking to doctors, and worrying onlyabout my baby because I was breast feeding. After waiting a few hours, a woman doctor came in to speak about my options.  She suggested we perform another D&C. As I sat on the cold hospital bed I asked her if I would have to have a hysterectomy if the D&C does not work. She said (and I still can remember her voice and every wordwas she matter of fact? Cold? Distant? Confident and assured so that you believed her?She seemed very confident about her decision to perform the D&C. “We will not have to go down that road.” With both of my children I heard the word hysterectomy and my heart went numb. I didn’t even know what to think.  

The procedure was only supposed to take 10 minutes. After over an hour of the most annoying and exhausting surgery (I had a spinal, so I was awake). I was told it would take ten minutes and after more than an hour I was very annoyed and uncomfortable.  the doctor came up to me and said, “We can’t get the entire placenta out. We will have to give you a hysterectomy.”  By then I was so tired I think after she told me that I passed out from the surgery.
I woke up in the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. My husband was at home resting at the time. I sent him home because I thought I was getting another D&C and when I was done I would call him. He didn’t even know I had a hysterectomy. We didn’t have the time to talk about this. I didn’t have the option. I had to have my mother call him and tell him what happened. No one else was with me at the time of the surgery. The recovery was very difficult and long.  My husband and I didn’t get a chance to discuss my surgery until almost a year after. He thought I would be fine and things would go back to normal, little did he know.  I was a monster.  I didn’t like who I was, I just thought I was crazy.  After numerous breakdowns and fights, I decided to talk to someone to get help.  My husband decided to attend a support group so he was able to understand what I was going through.  I recommend that to any husband or significant other. 
I don’t’ feel I was examined correctly. I had a doctor that was supposed to be one of the best in the city, but he rushed through every scheduled visit with me. He said I was fine, but I believe that if I would have had the c-section I would have not had to have the hysterectomy. My doctor was pretty confident everything was going smoothly, but it didn’t. I went to see him on a Friday because I was leaking fluids.  I thought my water broke but when he examined me, he said I was fine and to go home.  He also said I was not going to go in labor that weekend.  I started having contractions on Saturday night and had my daughter Sunday morning.  My doctor was “out of town” that weekend so I didn’t even know who was going to deliver me.  I am grateful to have had both my girls vaginally but after what I went through I would have wanted a C Section to save my cervix and uterus.

I was not well educated about what would happen physically, emotionally, and mentally after hysterectomy, and I experience this every day since  the surgery. I have two beautiful girls and I am so grateful I am alive, but having the hysterectomy changed my life. I just hope that one day I will get over the fact that I cannot have any more children -- we wanted, or hoped for a son.
It’s been a year since the surgery and I still struggle every day.

The only advice I have for women with Placenta Praevia is if you have any doubts about anything, get a second, third and fourth opinion.  Go online, read and educate yourself on everything you should know about this subject. It might change your life.

Labels: , , ,


At November 14, 2009 at 10:58 AM , Blogger Gabriela said...

Hi Ashley. My name is Gabriela and I really understand you. With my 3rd. child I had placenta previa acreta(the worst of them) and my boy was delivered via c-section a month early (yesterday my boy turned 7), when things started to go bad. I started to bleed very bad, to the point that they took my husband out of the OR and the last thing I remenber was of a nurse putting a gas mask over my face. To make the story short, I had a hysterectomy, my bladder was ripped, my son was placed 2 days in NICU, I landed in ICU 2 days conected to a ventilator . ^ months after that I had surgery on my bladder to close the hole they left on it and to fix the ventral hernia and 1 week after my sons 1st birthday a second hernia repair. I thought I was in the best hands but seems like not. The consequences of all this: Body pains, psicological pain, not being able to take care like a mother should the first year of a newborn, going through a lot of Drs. untill someone noticed my bladder had a hole, and of course having to take care of my other 2 daughters who were 4 and 2 at that time and my hisband who has a round the clock job. So I understand you perfectly. My advice: Step by Step, Day by Day, Its a long journey but with psicological help and my family Im almost 10 points. I wish you the best of Luck!!

At November 14, 2009 at 2:35 PM , Anonymous Melissa said...

How tragic to have had an unwanted, undiscussed, unsupported hysterectomy. My heart breaks for you. It is unfair and a violation to you. You were in an emergency situation with no options. They would not give you any options. It's just wrong. I hope you find some answers to ease any emotional or physical pain. I know what it is like to be violated, against your will by the medical profession. I know what is like to have friends and professionals tell you to feel lucky I survived. I know the rage and agony and can only tell you that I am so very sorry you have experienced such a tragedy and hope and pray you will find some relief. I know it won't ever be the same, but please try to continue to heal yourself at least hormonally through homeopathics, herbs, bio identical hormones, or pharmaceutical hormones, fresh air, sunshine and passionate causes and hobbies. Don't let them rob you of that. That is your own right.

At November 15, 2009 at 9:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashley, I am so sorry that this was done to you. Yes, lay person that I am, I think that, given your history and circumstance, a caesarean section would have been in order. Were you given pitocin? 'Cause pitocin causes strong uterine contractions...unnatural contractions that can exhaust the uterus-- and lead to uncontrolled bleeding.
Sadly, the medicos broadcast that hysterectomy and ovary removal are benign operations. Nothing could be further from the truth...and gyns' own literature reveals their duplicity. Not knowing any better, society largely accepts the gyn's deliberate and diabolical direction. It is for this very reason that the HERS Foundation's efforts to educate the public are so critically important.
If hysterectomy and ovary removal were a disease, as opposed to surgical procedures wrought by their own profiteering hands, only then would we hear how dire their consequences...

At November 16, 2009 at 11:51 AM , Anonymous Juliet said...

Dear Ashley
I am really sorry to read your story. I had a hysterectomy in 2002 for stage1A1 cervcal cancer.I was lied to and patronised by my consultant, and found out later that I didn't need to have a hysterectomy - I could have had a more localised treatment. It has taken me a long time to heal. In fact an important part of my healing is that I am working with pregnant women again - birth and mothering were something that I felt passionate about before my hysterectomy, but the mental scars seared into my brain by that experience meant that for a long time I couldn't go near the subject, and felt so bad in myself and like I had lost the part of me that was special.

Enough about me, as I read your story there were some things that made me wonder. With your second birth, you say that your baby was born early and then you were given a D&C to make sure no placenta was left inside. For a start, I find that unusual. Was the placenta incomplete? Usually they can look at the placenta to see if there is any missing. I know that D&C is sometimes used as a treatment for post partum haemorage. Were you already bleeding excessively at this point? And is this why they did the D&C (You do not say in the blog whether you were already bleeding at this point).

Then from what I understand you were better for month, but then haemoraged and had to go back into hospital. Then you say you heard them say that as they couldn't get the whole placenta out they would have to give you a hysterectomy. Now, I don't know if this has been related properly, but if it is as written, I would say that a month after the birth there should not have been any placenta left at all. Especially as they had given you a D&C after the birth. If there had been placenta left behind you would have been in grave danger of infection and complications anyway.

There SHOULD NOT have been any placenta left a month after, and I cannot see how this would have meant that you needed a hysterectomy. I think that it could be important to do some fact finding, because this just doesn't all add up to me. Be you own private detective and educate yourself about what happened to you. I am very happy to exchange emails with you if it would be helpful.

You say this happened a year ago. That would still have been early days for me. I used to have to try and force myself to think of other things because otherwise my mind would go into default terror and rage. Seven years on I am a lot better, but I will never forget it. It was the death of a precious part of me and I will honuor that and be a witness to it for the rest of my life.

At November 16, 2009 at 12:28 PM , Anonymous Juliet said...

Hi Juliet again

I've been looking into this a bit more. Did you have placenta accreta, which sometimes happens with placenta previa, and means that the placenta is very deeply embedded in the uterine walls?

At November 20, 2009 at 7:04 PM , Anonymous Charlotte said...

GASP!!!Ashley...I am so sorry you were lied to by a l gynecologist...This epidemic sexual attack against women must be ended legally.
I was lied to by a jealous woman who told me the truth after she deceived me about hysterectomy. An unnecessary hysterectomy has ruined my life. To all intact women reading this: Don’t believe a woman who says sex is better after hysterectomy/sex organ amputation, she is not being honest with you. Women saying things like “it’s the best thing I ever did” are trying to protect their self-image and may be jealous of you, because you are sexually intact. A woman can not achieve a uterine orgasm after being given a hysterectomy or female castration (ovary removal). There are loop-holes in all gynecological surgical consent forms allowing for sex organ amputation hysterectomy and female castration for benign conditions. 22 million women, alive today, didn’t become de-sexed in the U.S by being told the medical truth by gynecologists or their personnel. Please read all of the information on the HERS Foundation website, it is the accurate medical information. Read “The H Word” and tell every person you know. Hysterectomy is really sex organ amputation and it is epidemic in the U.S.A for benign medical conditions. Gynecologists are using cancer scare tactics to lure women into their operating rooms.
Thank you HERS, keep up the good work warning women.

At November 23, 2009 at 10:14 PM , Anonymous DocF said...

Given the information contained in the original post, it is difficult to support the care and the approach taken in Ashley's pregnancy and delivery. I have been researching and studying and trying to determine what should have been done.

In this case, If I had been her doctor, I would most likely have planned on doing a C-section. Why they did not take this approach confuses me.

Now as to the situation that caused the doctor to do her hysterectomy, we simply do not have enough evidence to determine if it was justified or not.

It has been suggested that Ashley may have had placenta accreta. This condition, in which the placenta is deeply embedded in the wall of the uterus is most apt to happen when the woman has had a previous child delivered by a C-section.

This possible consequences of placenta accreta are often very dire, indeed. If the bleeding cannot be controlled, it can lead to death.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the usual approach to dealing with this condition was compression of the uterus and hoping that the bleeding could be controlled. If it could not, the condition led to hysterectomy, which doctors avoided if possible in the days before antibiotics as infection killed may patients.

Today, doctors usually try a d&c and then, if that fails to reduce the bleeding, doctors will have to perform a hysterectomy to save the woman's life.

This may be one of the cases where the unfortunate consequences of this procedure cannot be avoided.

I wish we had more information regarding Ashley's tragic case. As many here know, I am a man who has long held views opposing hysterectomy as a cure all procedure. In this case, though, I fear it may have been necessary.

At November 25, 2009 at 4:24 PM , Anonymous CT said...

Ashley, I'm so very sorry about what you've been through at such a young age. Thank you for speaking out and telling your story here. I'm sure it wasn't easy. I know it will help countless women. You surely were in no condition to make any kind of informed decision, and the position you were put in is just horrible and heartbreaking.

I don't know much about the condition you had, but it sounds like you received substandard care prior to the hysterectomy, which is more common than excellent care in the ob/gyn field. Most women have no idea that when they go to their ob/gyn, he/she does not have to provide excellent care. He/she only has to follow the standard, and we know the standard is anything they want to do regardless of the damage it causes. Every woman who has been hysterectomized should be suspicious and should acquire a copy of their medical records to see if it was actually necessary and to see if the records match what they've been told. There is little doubt that if the Attorney General did an audit of all the hysterectomy records in the U.S. and compared them with what women were told, there would be never-ending discrepancies. It may have been done to save your life, but as DocF said, more information is needed to know for sure. Either way, it's not an easy thing to live with.

Thanks for telling your story and warning others.

At January 10, 2010 at 8:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashley I am sorry for what you went through.
I had placenta previa percreta (my placenta went into the bladder). They did not give me a hysterectomy because I would not let them. Because I knew that it IS possible to leave the placenta in after giving birth. What my doctors did was give me a classical c section and then they went in through the fundus because they did not want to cut through the placenta as this would have caused a hemorrhage. The placenta started coming out on its own over a few months. There is the danger of infection but I was prepared to take that risk. It seems to me that you also had accreta/percreta as it is strongly associated with placenta previa. But don't feel bad if it wasn't diagnosed prenatally, as it often isn't until they try to deliver the placenta. I was very lucky that they picked it up before so we could have a plan.

At February 22, 2010 at 4:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is terrible have any of you women who have had an unwanted hysterectomy sued the dr.

At March 5, 2010 at 9:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ashley, just came across your post and just wanted to say that I really understand what you're going through. I had my son in December 2000 by CS after an unsuccessful 30 hour labour. I had 4 haemorrhages and required 33 pints of blood and an emergency hysterectomy - I was 18 years old at the time and it was Christmas Day. My family and I suspect that there was negligence but proving it through the courts is so difficult, we've been trying to prove my case for 9 years! Like yourself, I have been left totally devastated by this but it does get a bit easier as time goes on. I suffer with post traumatic stress disorder, some days are harder than others. I'd imagine they have left your ovaries due to your age, mine have failed and I will now be on hrt for 30 years. I have almost overcome an eating disorder, agoraphobia, a blood phobia, severe depression etc and look back at the early days and can't believe how far I've came since then. Some days it is still overwhelming and I get angry that they have robbed my son of any brothers or sisters but staying angry isn't the answer either. I have tried to focus on other things instead and I'm now facing my fears by training to be a nurse. I know that you'll probably be feeling terrible right now and I really feel for you, I know it'll never go away but I promise that things will get a bit easier to cope with in time xxxxxxxx

At March 12, 2010 at 9:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous from March 5th,

That's interesting that you too are trying to overcome an eating disorder. My hysterectomy and removal of both ovaries (aka castration) at 33 years of age was very traumatic for me and resparked a deadly battle with anorexia that I thought I had overcome 17 years prior. Several years later I am still battling it, along with a whole host of other physical and mental health issues as a result of hysterectomy/surgical menopause. I have been on hormone replacement all this time but its nothing like what my own ovaries did so naturally for me (took me years to find a combination that didnt make me crazy but without any hrt I was a complete mess). I also battle severe osteoporosis. I am not yet 40.

My heart goes out to you. Words just can not express the frustration and anger I feel on your behalf. You are in my prayers, as are all women who have endured this surgery. For a few it has saved their lives, but for many more of us it has taken so much from us and in some cases has created problems that have cost some of us our lives and health. Many have died from this surgery. Many more will die from long term complications, and some from suicide resulting from severe hormonal imbalances.

Thank you Ashley for the courage to share your story so that other women will be more fully informed and aware of the consequences of this. HUGS,

At December 15, 2010 at 4:04 PM , Anonymous Jami said...

Dear Ashley
I cannot tell you how much reading your story has helped me. It was literally like reading my own story. I underwent a partial hysterectomy at the age of 19 when I gave birth to my son (my 1st and only). I also believe improper care was the cause of mine. My son was nearly 3 weeks over due almost 10 pounds (I gained nearly 80) I was in labor for over 2 days. I had a c-section finally lost consciousness immediately after and woke up 2 days later very lucky me and my son both survived. Being so young I often feel very alone and isolated as I now watch my friends and family who are already on their 3rd and 4th. I get a lot of the comments like "Be glad you were able to have one" "one's all you really need these days" and "It wasn't meant to be" I have spent the last 3 years an emotional and physical wreck and despite my young age feel I'm trapped in a 60 year olds body.I know of no one who has been through anything remotely similar and there are times I would give anything to have someone truly understand what I feel. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I pray that one day science will give all of the women out there like us our hope back.-Jami

At July 15, 2012 at 6:01 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I can truly relate with your story. However I never got the opportunity to have a child. Last year at 35 years old my DR performed a hysterectomy on me after I went in for him to remove two fibroids he decided to leave in 7 years ago. I was never informed of all the lifestyle changes I would have to make and suffering through being in early menopause and etc. After the hysterectomy I abcessed twice and recovery that should have taken 4 to six weeks took four months. It's been an emotional rollercoaster and constantly women with children attempt to comfort me by saying motherhood is not all it's cracked up to be and then tell me I can have one of those children. I smile and then secretly come home and cry my eyes out and then wonder why of all the options my Dr could have taken, Why did he choose the most drastic one? No other complications other than a failed ovary and now my weight is up and down, to take HRT or not to take HRT is my new question, and he literally walked away as if his job was done and literally I am alone..well not totally I have the love of God and my church family and I am very appreciative for that...Best of luck to you...Kim

At July 27, 2012 at 10:25 AM , Anonymous Gutted said...

Kim - I'm so very sorry for your loss! It's been years since my hysterectomy and I still can't wrap my brain around the evilness of these gynecologists and all the other perpetrators and enablers.

Please copy and paste your story on the current blog if you don't mind so more women will see it.

At January 24, 2013 at 7:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear ladies, i am a male gynecologist. Believe me, we are NOT the monsters everyone is trying to depict us in these previous comments. Sexual harassing has NOTHING to do with an isterectomy. It is difficult for a young woman to find herself without a uterus, i agree; its also difficult to be working in the birth ward and finding an unattended placenta that won't come down, even with D&C, and in the meantime the woman is bleeding to death. In that moment you'll do anything to save her life. So you speak about options, guidelines and so forth: Many people who write about these options and guidelines in big magazines and medical journals, don't even work in birth wards, or its many years they have left them. Taking away an uterus to a young woman, doing her transfusions, its depressing as much as for the patient as for the doctor. NOONE likes to take away an uterus in dramatic conditions to a young woman if he/she can. The scars remain in the head of the doctor who did emergency isterectomy least most of us. I agree that we should have better communication, tell the facts more fully, and everyday i learn something new in my approach to patients. Often its the patient himself that teaches me something new. being open minded and not tied to corporation interests does help. SUING every doctor that comes in town does not help: we just fill ourselves up with defensive medicine, and in the long run this won't help anybody. I write all this because the same happened to a dear friend of mine recently, i wasn't in the ward that night, but who know, maybe the same thing would have happened if i had been life its important to understand the views from both sides of the barricade to live better and learn better

At January 24, 2013 at 4:48 PM , Blogger HERS Foundation said...

If you are a gynecologist why do you not know how to spell hysterectomy?

Your claim of being a doctor is disingenuous. The word "hysterectomy" would be a word you would be able to spell better than any other since hysterectomy is the most common major surgery performed in the US.

Who are you? Why are you posing as a gynecologist?

At January 24, 2013 at 7:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simple: i dont work in the USA, my mother language is not english, so forgive me the language errors. I came by your blog after i posted placenta acreta and hysterectomy on google

At January 24, 2013 at 11:54 PM , Blogger HERS Foundation said...

I can understand if English is not your first language, but the only word you had difficulty with is hysterectomy. Everything else in your post is spelled correctly, even unusual words like "suing" and "defensive".

What country are you from?

At June 29, 2014 at 1:02 PM , Blogger TARA Photography said...

I'm curious how long it took Ashley and all the women who shared similar stories to recover. I had a c section, discovered placenta accreta, a D&C at 6 weeks then a total hysterectomy at 10 weeks post partum. I'm now 12 weeks out and still am dealing with pain every single day with no end in sight. I am desperate to know how long I should expect to feel this way, bc if it doesn't go away I'm worried about my mental state in the long run. All I want is to be an active participant in my three daughters lives, and for over 5 months now I have not, and my heart is broken.

At June 30, 2014 at 10:33 AM , Blogger HERS Foundation said...


I am so sorry this happened. Recuperation, that is from the operation and anesthesia, takes an average of 11 months.

Other aftereffects of hysterectomy occur because of loss of a hormone responsive sex organ. It may be helpful to you to read about what 1,000 women reported about their experience with hysterectomy,

If you are on Facebook do a search on Ashley Shewman. She may want to join the group she started for women who underwent post-partum hysterectomies.

At March 19, 2015 at 3:09 PM , Anonymous Jessicca said...

Dear Ashley, I know this post is old, but as my situation is new I stumbled across this and I felt your pain. In 2011 our 3rd son was born emergency c-section and 34wks. My water had broke but I did not go into labor, he was in distress and was not moving. They discovered that he had stopped growing several wks prior to my water breaking. He was born at 3lbs 6oz. They ran tests on the placenta to try and find out why it had stopped supporting him and found nothing. My O.B who had delivered all 3 of my children had told me everything had gone great except he had to do the c-section a little differently then usual, because my son was so small my internal incision on my uterus was vertical instead of horizontal. I healed fine. In 2014 we became pregnant with our 4th child. Everything was running smoothly, I hadnt gained any weight but usually dont until very late 2nd to early 3rd trimester. But at 21wks I still wasnt feeling and movement and I started to cramp and spot. I went in to find out that our son had died at appr. 17wks. I went into labor on my own while there and delivered our son. They couldnt stop the bleeding and I could pass the placenta so said they would do a D&C to remove the placenta. Very last minute I too was told right before being put under that if they couldnt stop the it then a hysterectomy may be done. After 1 1/2 hrs in surgery I wake up by myself in the recovery room and the first words from the nurse was they did a hysterectomy. Didnt ask how I was feeling, didnt ask if I wanted family to come back. My heart stopped. Not only did we lose our son, but we lost our ability to have more. I spent 4 days in the maternity ward, my milk coming in, pictures of babies on the walls, the baby bed in my room and having to hear all the other babies cry all around me. It was the worst experience of my life. At my 6wk post op my O.B. said the placenta had grown into the uterine muscles and then decided to finally inform me that he kinda expected this to happen because of the prior c-section, but failed to give us any warning of these risks 3yrs prior to this happening. It has been almost 5mon, it has been a very difficult time especially after my due date came and gone but no beautiful baby boy in my arms, instead my son is in an urn on a shelf. I am still trying to find a way through this, my husband has no clue what to do, he cant fully comprehend what i'm going through. I hope you have found some comfort since your horrible experience. My heart goes to you and your family.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home