Marlies Bongers and Corien van Zweden
A Biography Of The Womb
The Ingenious Organ So Often Misunderstood
Everything you need to know about the organ we all developed in
The womb is ingenious; in maturity, a beautiful organ the shape and size of a pear, ever replenishing its lining in preparation for an embryo. But it is also surrounded by taboos and is alternately revered, feared and despised. Van Zweden and Bongers, two experts – one an author who has previously written about the female body, the other a gynaecologist – try to break the taboo surrounding the uterus and share the vital information about it which is so lacking. The open-mindedness of the first author and her writing skills perfectly complement the experience and knowledge of the second.
The uterus goes through many changes in a woman’s life, evolving from a tiny white speck already present at birth, to a large plush organ, before shrinking back down again once it is no longer needed. In this accessible, informative book, first the womb’s anatomy and role are explained, then common medical issues such as heavy periods, unwanted pregnancies, cysts, fibroids, endometriosis and miscarriages. Finally pregnancy, birth and the post-menopausal uterus.
Equally fascinating in the book is the history of ideas surrounding the uterus and the menstruation taboos deeply embedded in our culture. On a papyrus from 1800 BC, menstruation was already described as dirty and unclean. It was thought that its function was to remove waste products or undigested food, something the superior male body did not need. Wombs were also believed to wander around the body causing hysteria and could be lured back to their right place with the scent of flowers held to the vagina. Worshipping the womb also has historical roots that go back a long way. This dichotomy still plays tricks on us today.
Marlies Bongers invited Corien van Zweden to observe at her gynaecology practice, so that she could note down first-hand the real life experiences from the consulting room included in the book. Typically women wait a long time before coming forward with their complaints because pain and blood loss have traditionally been seen as feminine ailments to be endured in silence. In the interest of women’s health, we must start to talk about the womb, its sensitivity and fallibility, and how to manage the periodic challenges it throws at women such as severe bleeding, exhaustion and hot flashes.