This is what the NHS website, says about the side effects and risks of the LLETZ procedure,
- mild pain, similar to period pain – this should pass in a few hours and can be relieved with paracetamol or ibuprofen
- light vaginal bleeding and brown, watery vaginal discharge – this may last up to four weeks
There’s also a small risk of more serious complications, such as:
- an infection – this can cause heavy or persistent bleeding, smelly vaginal discharge and persistent tummy pain; see your GP if you have these symptoms
- a slightly increased risk of premature birth (before the 37th week of pregnancy) in future pregnancies – this is more likely if you need repeated treatments or a lot of tissue needs to be removed
In most cases, the benefit of treatment will outweigh these risks. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any concerns or would like to know more about the potential risks of treatment.
Anyone reading this would think they have nothing much to worry about from this treatment. But these side effects are by far from the whole story. That line, ‘in most cases, the benefits of treatment will outweigh the risks,’ stands out to me as being highly questionable.
Considering the limited research done into side effects of LEEP, and the limited acknowledgement of the research that does exist, it’s clear to me that doctors don’t actually know enough about the risks to claim that.
There is a culture of silence about the real risks involved in medical treatment, particular where gynaecology is concerned. It’s up to us as women, to get together, to talk to each other, and share accurate information from our own real experience of what happens when we have medical procedures.
The medical profession tries to make us believe that it’s all in our head, but we know our bodies best. We need to trust our intuition, and use our voices to make sure that other women have an informed choice, not a minimal list of side effects that is a joke compare to women’s real lived experience of what happens after LEEP.
Here is a list of side effects that I’ve gathered, from myself, other women who have contacted me and from reading stories online. You can follow the links to learn more about these side effects.
- Loss of sex drive (scientific study about loss of sexual function)
- Painful sex
- Loss of orgasm function, (Dr. Irwin Goldstein is researching this)
- Chronic Pelvic Pain, and pelvic tension. Scientific research describes it as a ‘rare’ complication.
- Premature Menopause
- Chronic Fatigue
- Trauma symptoms, such as fear, anxiety, and nightmares.
- Loss of sense of physically ‘being in the world’
- Vaginal Eczema
- Chronic Yeast Infections
It would be easy to dismiss this list, to say that a lot of these side effects are just subjective reports of women’s experience and have never been scientifically linked to the LEEP procedure.
But here is where there is a real problem with the LEEP. A procedure is introduce with an adequate understanding of the long term side effects, and when women report these side effects, they are often ignored.
The medical system needs to take into account women’s subjective experience. These experiences should be the basis of research to prove whether or not the LEEP is to blame.
All bodies are different, which explains the vast variation in response to the LEEP, but they are not that different. If a side effect has happened to one woman, it has probably happened to many more.
Dr. Irwin Goldstein says, my usual analogy when people talk about a doctor says I’ve done 10,000 Leeps and no-ones ever complained, is that there’s plenty of people who have smoked cigarettes, who live till their 90’s-90’s, 100’s and never get lung cancer. But its not possible to deny the association between smoking and lung cancer in some patients, it’s just a simple and straightforward issue. The fact of the matter is LEEP injures nerves.
If you have experienced long-term problems with LEEP, I have a facebook support group.