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“Less Feminine and Less a Woman”: The Impact of Unplanned Postpartum Hysterectomy on Women

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AIM: This article is a report of the women's experiences of unplanned emergency hysterectomy following severe postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).

BACKGROUND: Every year, thousands of women worldwide undergo hysterectomies for either gynecological issues or following childbirth to save their life from severe PPH. Little attention has been given to the experiences of women with secondary infertility, despite many of these women being of childbearing age. Some of the issues concerning this group of women are related to their feminine identity, sexuality, sense of being, and womanhood.

METHOD: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 21 Australian women between the ages of 24 and 57 years. The data were collected between May and October 2009. Data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis.

FINDINGS: One major theme; loss of normality, and four subthemes emerged, “being incomplete: half a woman,” “not myself: a changed body,” “being alone: isolation and disconnectedness,” and “fearing intimacy: insecure and wary.”

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that irrespective of the number of children women have, they may continue to experience significant emotional distress following their hysterectomy after childbirth. The distress these women experience is not only during the immediate postsurgical period but continues long term, and affects social, familial, and interpersonal relationships. Health professionals, particularly those providing community-based child and family health services, are in a position to provide ongoing professional support to women who experience an emergency hysterectomy following childbirth.
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Keywords: HYSTERECTOMY; INFERTILITY; MIDWIFERY; NURSING; POSTPARTUM HEMORRHAGE; QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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  • The International Journal of Childbirth is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal publishing original research, reviews, and case studies concerned with the practice of midwifery, women's health, prenatal care, and the birth process. The journal encourages the exploration of the complex and contextual issues surrounding childbirth provision and outcomes and invites manuscripts from a wide range of clinical, theoretical, political, methodological, psychological, public health, policy, and multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives.
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