The Real Side Effects Of LEEP/LLETZ

This is what the NHS website, says about the side effects and risks of the LLETZ procedure,

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.

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.

 

Dr Irwin Goldstein on Informed Choice

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

This week I got to talk to Dr. Irwin Goldstein, the Director of Sexual Medicine at Alvarado Hospital in California. Dr. Goldstein is conducting research into LEEP and how it effects women’s sexual function.

Dr. Goldstein is one of the few doctors trying to have an honest and open conversation about the nature of the cervix, and it’s role in sexual function. Many doctors are still not aware that there are 3 paired nerves in the cervix, and that it plays a role in orgasm. He says,

The current nightmare is a misrepresentation of the cervix as not being sexual. In our literature the cervix is quite sexual, and in fact it has tripe innervation. There are extremely few organs with triple innervation. The value of the cervix to homeo sapien existence which is based on survivability and reproduction is huge. Because with a malfunctioning cervix reproduction is severely impaired

I asked him about his research and he explains how his intention is to ensure women have informed choice about the procedure.

The removal of the opening of the cervix will result in injury to the sexual function of the organ. So when appropriately discussed with the patient, the patient can say, ‘’Um, I’m not ready to give up this quality of orgasm, maybe there’s other things we can do, or I’m not that interested in sex,.. I don’t want to have cancer. The unfortunate issue about Gynaecology is that the sexual consequences of operating in the vaginal area are not discussed…It’s an issue of informed consent. and being honest, that when you operate on the vagina, it’s a sexual organ…you may without explaining hurt sexuality. And it has to be the patient is involved in the decision making. Right now the patient is rarely involved in the decision making.

Before I had my LEEP I had little understanding of what my cervix actually was. I had never touched it before, or knew about how it functioned. I had no conscious awareness that it was involved in my orgasms but when my cervix became injured the intensity of my orgasms lessened.

We can have what are known as ‘blended’ orgasms, which may involve the clitoris, g-spot, and/or cervix all-together. Our society has focused mainly on the clitoral orgasm. The existence of the g-spot is often presented as a mystery and the possibility of cervical orgasms are rarely discussed in the mainstream.

Many women may have been like me, experiencing blended orgasms during sex, but without being aware that the pleasure came in part from the cervix.

As women, it’s so vital that we educate ourselves about our own sexual organs, before we decided to undergo a procedure like LEEP. Doctors may behave as if consenting to treatment is a ‘no-brainer’ but it’s important to remember we do have a choice.

Dr. Goldstein says,

if you’re trying to prevent a hysterectomy by doing the LEEP then that’s one thing. But a lot of women don’t have cervical cancer when they do the LEEP, they just have abnormal cells, and it seems like the risk benefit ratio is very very different from women that physically have cancer, than women who have abnormal cells that may not have cancer.

If you are suffering from sexual side effects from the LEEP then you can contact me or Dr. Irwin Goldstein directly and be part of his research project. Together we can ensure that in the future women, are aware of the risks, and are empowered to make an informed choice.

 

Curing Cervical Dysplasia Naturally

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12 years ago when I was diagnosed with abnormal cells and told I would need the LEEP procedure there was a little voice my head that thought, what if this treatment isn’t safe?This little voice also asked, what if there’s another way? I ignored that voice, I was too afraid, and too lost and confused by what had happened.

I did know, at the age of 25 that the mainstream medical system didn’t have all the answers. When I was 21 I’d had chronic fatigue syndrome, and when medicine couldn’t offer me any kind of solution, I ended up recovering through practising yoga. This experienced had left me feeling empowered to know that I could take control of my health, and help myself when the ‘system’ couldn’t, but faced with the big ‘C’ word, it felt safer not to think, not to google, and just put my faith in my doctor’s decision.

A few weeks ago, I chatted with Claire Forrester about her experience of curing herself naturally of cervical dysplasia. She was diagnosed with CIN 3 and immediately started to transform her health (continue reading for her protocol). Three months later she returned to her doctor and her cells had returned to normal. Her doctor was amazed, and told Claire that this needed to be researched.

But here’s the problem, such natural lifestyle cures don’t get researched. There is no money to be made by the pharmaceutical industry by sharing information about how organic food, and other lifestyle changes can transform our health. This is the bottom line about our healthcare system. Profits come first, often before health.

You may have noticed that these days there are more articles and information about recovering naturally from cancer and other diseases. Often people who take this route are ridiculed, and dismissed as quacks.

The fact is, we don’t have any research about whether cervical dysplasia can be cured naturally. That means there’s no proof, but there’s also no disproof. In the absence of research. I always look to stories. I don’t dismiss something as being impossible because it hasn’t been proved, because there is a huge agenda about what gets proven and what doesn’t.

Having gone through the devastating side effects of LEEP I know I’d always be open to alternatives, even if they hadn’t been researched. I want the best possible care for my body, and if my health were in danger, I wouldn’t wait around for years to see if someone eventually researches it. I’d ask around, use a bit of common sense and intuition, and look at the scientific research before making a decision.

And the other point is that the conventional treatment for abnormal cells LEEP hasn’t actually been researched properly either! When the procedure was introduced no anatomy of the cervix had been done. Doctors were cutting into the cervix long before they understand it had nerve endings that are vitally important to the wellbeing of the body.

Just because something is a conventional medical procedure doesn’t mean there is adequate research to prove it is the best thing for our body.

Common sense tells me that my cervix was a lot healthier 12 years ago, even with those symptomless abnormal cells. If I’d have the choice to turn back the clock and try to cure myself from cervical dysplasia naturally I would have done it. 3 months of healthy lifestyle choices, is no effort at all, compared to 12 years living with pain and sexual trauma.

Here are Claire’s top tips for getting healthy and curing yourself of cervical dysplasia.

1) firstly, don’t panic…it takes time for your body to reach this state and it will take time to cure yourself, nothing medically needs to be done urgently

2) cut sugar out of your diet, it’s toxic and is the biggest feeder of cancer (this includes alcohol, sweets, cakes, all processed food)

3) buy yourself a blender/juicer such as a nutri bullet and juice daily (90% organic veg and 10% fruit)

4) take good quality supplements for cervical dysplasia such as on Dr Marilyn Glenvilles protocol

5) have a hot lemon drink every morning first thing, squeeze half a lemon in a pint of hot water. It helps to reduce acidity in the body and alkaline the body.

6) find a herbalist who can make you vaginal pessaries

7) I did a juice fast week at a retreat in Glastonbury, although it wasn’t cheap it is a great way to kick start your body and mind towards good health

8) Work on old or unaddressed emotional issues, see a therapist of your choice who can help you with this. I chose a therapist who does “journey work”. Our bodies store unresolved emotions in the body and the cervix is often to do with a loss of some kind

9) oil pull with coconut oil every day to pull toxins from the body, a tea spoon of oil in your mouth and swish it around your mouth for up to 20 mins like you would mouthwash then spit this out

10) I had a dodgy root filled tooth removed, they are well documented to be linked with cancer and many neurological conditions

11) I had some osteopathy from someone specialising in women’s health to improve the blood flow and drainage of the pelvis. Blood brings the healing properties to tissues

There are also many options such as intravenous vitamin c, cannabis oil, mistletoe therapy if you can afford this. I was booked in to have vitamin c therapy and before this happened I was given the all clear so never needed it.

These are the main things I did, I treated it like cancer and massively changed my diet and lifestyle, did more yoga and meditation. Some of these you can start doing straight away and others take.

If I can help in anyway, please just let me know as I am very passionate about this.

Lots of love
Claire

You can connect with Claire via her facebook group Curing Cervical Dysplasia Naturally 

Is LEEP Safe?

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LEEP is described by the planned parenting website in the US as being safe and effective. I know I read something similar like that 12 years ago, and I put my trust in my doctor, and thought little more about it. There’s nothing like reading the words ‘safe and effective’ by a medical expert to put your mind at ease.

But is LEEP really safe? And has there ever been enough research to prove it? That is highly questionable. I’ve been researching into how the LEEP procedure was introduced and what research was done about it beforehand. If you’ve been reading my previous posts you’ll know that there has been no research into women’s internal neurology, so the effect of LEEP on the nerves in the cervix is completely unknown. This means doctors do not know how LEEP may effect nerves involved in orgasm and sexual function.

LEEP (or LLETZ as it is also known) was introduced in 1989, following a study on 111 women. It was found that a small percentage of these women, (9), had excessive bleeding afterwards but the rest of them were fine. The study doesn’t mention how LLETZ might effect a woman’s fertility, or sexuality. The researchers admit that the long term complications of LLETZ were unknown.

Is this enough information to introduce LLETZ on a mass scale and to know that it is safe? I have looked for other research, some other information, about what was known about LLETZ when it was introduced as a procedure in 1989, but I have found nothing.

I had assumed that doctors fully understand the implications of the treatment they are giving people. It appears that they did not.

I know some of the long term complications because I have lived with them for the last 12 years. And since starting a facebook support group for other women I am hearing about the side effects every single day as more women join. These include miscarriage, abdominal pain, leg pain, chronic yeast infections, chronic vaginal eczema, painful sex, inability to experience pleasure when orgasming, lack of sexual desire, and chronic pelvic pain. Add to that the emotional and physical trauma, of having a part of your body amputated.

We have many different symptoms but we all have one thing in common, doctors have ignored or minimised our symptoms, or been told that they are completely unrelated to the LEEP.

There are other symptoms that are hard to pin down, that myself and another woman Asha, have been trying to articulate and explain. After our LEEP we have experienced a profound sense of disconnection from the world around us. We feel that we have lost  creativity and memory, our very sense of being human, sensual beings. I can remember watching a film with a couple having sex, and feeling like it was an almost alien act. LEEP profoundly disconnected me from my sexual self and I am still trying to return to how I was before. Of course these symptoms exist in a no-man’s land, to be dismissed as ‘psychological’ by medical professionals. It’s much easier to do that than to admit, that there is a huge research gap, of understanding the neural networks in the cervix, and how they connect up to the brain.

I contacted the cervical screening department in the UK because I wanted to report my side effects. I wanted other women to know that when that when they have LEEP they risk losing their sex life, because if I had known that I would never have had it. I was told, ”there are no published reports linked to problems with sexual function as a result of the procedure.” When I wrote back to tell them there was research they looked at the studies and told me they were too small to be of significance, and that they were too subjective.

Now this is the irony. That doctors are not listening to women who report side effects from LEEP. They will say there’s no research into what is being reported, and if the research hasn’t been done, then our side effects exist in no-man’s land, unacknowledged. And if a woman does report in a scientific study that her sex life has been diminished, then her voice is invalid because it is subjective.

There isn’t enough research to prove LEEP is safe, and yet in the meantime, until someone does the research, every day women will risk devastating consequences from a procedure they are being told is safe and effective. We will be dismissed by doctors because it’s much simpler to turn us away, and uphold the status quo than really examine what’s going on here.

All this would be perhaps almost okay, if LEEP had saved my life, if my life had been at risk and this was the only option available to me. But I’ve done my research now, and I just don’t believe this to be the case.

In a 1977 research paper in the journal cancer by Dr. Maureen Henderson says,

it is difficult if not impossible to estimate from the analysis of available vital statistics how much of the fall in invasive cervical cancer death rates is the result of continued improvement in general hygiene and medical care and how much is the direct result of disease control programs based on early detection with exfoliative cytology (cervical screening)

I’ve been told by people I’m lucky I don’t cancer, but I have never seen it that way. I don’t believe this narrative, that my health was in danger. Abnormal cells are not cancer. ”Pre-cancerous is a provocative term that terrifies women into agreeing to medical procedures, and assuming that they have no other option. Ignoring symptoms would be reckless, but wanting to keep your healthy body intact is not.

The cervical screening programme and LEEP procedure may save a small number of lives, but how do we know that we aren’t just shuffling around health issues, by causing far great numbers of women stress, trauma and ill health it causes from side effects that can also not be quantified.

Olivia Bryant, Sexologist and found of Self-Cervix, a cervical healing programme for women, explains how cervical smears and other procedures can often lead to numbness, and trauma in the cervix. Cervical screening campaigns, encourage us to ignore our fears, and brush them away for the sake of our health, but what if that little voice inside of us, it actually our body’s inner knowing? If you sign up to Olivia’s mailing list she has a free video which explains about how to make a smear test, a more empowering, safe experience.

This kind of information is what we need. We need to understand the cervix’s sexual function, and not just the medical issues. We need to be given informed choice about smear tests and treatment. And that means real informed choice. Not just hiding behind ”no research” and dismissing women’s real concerns.

We need to choose if we want to risk losing our sex life,  having a miscarriage or a premature birth. We need to know, even if that risk is small. Because it could be us. We also need to know about alternatives.

To call a treatment that can result in the loss of life, as safe and effective, is to lie and mislead women.

The gift and the tragedy of this experience is that I have completely lost trust in doctors. If it is possible to get away with doing this to women’s bodies, then our ‘civilised’ western world is much darker, and misogynist, than I have been led to believe. I know now to ignore any medical professional who tells me not to google, who does not want me to think for myself. While the medical system continues to profit from women’s bodies, we must inform ourselves, support each other and above all, question everything.

The Alternative Guide To #BeCervixSavvy

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The cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust has a campaign that they call #BeCervixSavvy, which is used to encourage women to go along for smear tests. This is my alternative guide to fully understanding your cervix, and what the cervical screening programme entails. You can understand your cervix better than the ‘experts.’ It really isn’t that hard! 

Doctors who perform smear tests, and follow up treatments like colposcopy, don’t have a full understanding of how the cervix works. That’s because the cervix and it’s complex arrangement of nerves has not been fully researched. Shockingly although almost every other part of the body has been dissected and mapped out using cadavers (corpses of deceased people), but the female sex organs (cervix, vagina, clitoris etc) hasn’t.

Also little is known about how the cervix connects up to the g-spot and the clitoris, and how it plays a vital role of a women’s sexual pleasure. As Dr. Sandra Carson, of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says ’’I would say we know a score of 2 about the female sexual response… and it’s disappointing.’’ The research just hasn’t been done.

Some Doctors will say that the cervix plays no role in orgasm, that it has no nerve endings, and that it’s okay to remove a ‘few abnormal cells’ with treatments like LEEP/LLETZ. But women are reporting side effects like loss of sex drive, difficulties with orgasm, and other profoundly life-changing issues. Anyone who’s had a painful smear will know the cervix does have nerve endings! I’m not the only person who was told that the LEEP involves removing, ‘just a few cells.’ In reality, up to 2cm of the cervix is removed.

When I had my procedure I had no idea that the cervix; this mysterious part of my body I had never even seen or felt, was involved in orgasm, but I have learnt the truth since. If you want to #BeCervixSavvy then google ‘cervical orgasm’ and check out the resources you can find. I am just beginning to research this, but The Holy Grail Of The Cervical Orgasm seemed like a good place to start.

When we understand the role of our cervixes in sexual pleasure, we can understand the devastating impact of cutting into this part of the body. Imagine doing that to a man’s penis or testicles, as a preventative measure for cancer we don’t actually have, and that is actually one of the rarer cancers.

If you need treatment for abnormal cells – Then #BeCervixSavvy and ask your doctor about side effects and alternative treatments. Ask them if the treatment can cause changes in sexual function. They will probably say no.

I reported my side effects to the cervical screening programme and was told, ”Despite the many millions of LLETZ procedures being performed there are no published reports linked to problems with sexual function as result of the procedure.”

However this is completely untrue. There are at least two published research studies about how the LLETZ procedure has negatively impacted women’s sexual function, with more research on the way. Anecdotally every time I share my story, I get messages from women who have experienced the same devastating effects.

I was completely shocked that the cervical screening programme would have no awareness of the latest research in their own field, and it would be left up to me, a layperson with no medical training, to discover the real scientific facts about treatment. This seems to me to be complete and utter ignorance on an epic scale. And they tell us we should #BeCervixSavvy ??

There are doctors such as sexual dysfunction expert Dr. Irwin Goldstein, and discoverer of the g-spot, Dr. Beverly Whipple, who are aware that the LEEP can harm nerves in a woman’s cervix, and her sexual function. We really need to ask ourselves why the rest of the medical system is not aware.

Read Dr. Margaret McCartney’s book The Patient Paradox to make an informed choice about cervical screening and treatment. As she explains the truth behind preventative medicine, that the risks of preventative medicine often outweigh the benefits. She has good arguments about not going for smear tests, and if you do decide to go for them, it’s actually a lot less scary when you’ve been fully informed of the risks and benefits.

Cancer is scary, but nevertheless cervical cancer is one of the rarer cancers, and cervical screening is not as effective as the cervical cancer campaigns try to persuade us, as Dr. McCartney explains.

Another important thing to bear in mind to #BeCervixSavvy is that cervical screening is a business. Even in the UK where we have a public health service GP’s do earn money for every smear test they perform. Cancer charities like Jo’s Trust receive money from Pharmaceutical companies that influence their behaviour and campaigns. Making money and moving the NHS towards a more business focused model is all part of the motivation behind screening campaigns. You can read more about this in The Patient Paradox.

To #BeCervixSavvy is about a lot more than just showing up for your latest smear test, We need to question our ‘trust the doctor’ mentality. Many women, like myself have put our trust in doctors. But these doctors are lacking basic anatomical knowledge, and few of them seem to even realise that’s a problem.

We need to ask why so many women lose their health and sex lives, in order to prevent a cancer they don’t actually have. In the majority of cases, abnormal cells never turn into cancer.

If we want to #BeCervixSavvy as a society we need to listen to women. We need to stop dismissing their side effects. We need to look at the history of the pap smear, and ask ourselves, how on earth did we get to the point of cutting into a part of the body that is not fully understood and then dismissing women who have side effects.

So that’s my guide on how to #BeCervixSavvy. If you need more support then I have an online facebook group, Healing From LEEP.

What Doctors don’t tell you about LEEP (LLETZ)

12 years ago I underwent a procedure called LEEP (Or LLETZ) for removing abnormal pre-cancerous cells from my cervix. These are the kind of cells that could turn into cancer years later.

Everything that I’d heard about the procedure led me to believe it would be completely minor. I’d bleed for a while and wouldn’t be able to have sex for four weeks, but after that I’d be back to normal, using tampons, swimming etc. I was nervous, and also confused about why at the age of 25 my cells were already abnormal, but the doctor had reassured me this was a minor procedure that would be performed in under 20 minutes with a local anaesthetic.

A week or so after the LEEP I started bleeding non-stop and went to the hospital and was given antibiotics for an infection. When six weeks after that it still felt sore, and my stomach muscles felt barely able to hold my body in a sitting position, I assumed that this was because I was just taking extra long to heal from the infection.

Except it never did really heal. The first time I tried having sex it was painful. There was also something wrong with my ability to orgasm, it felt really weak compared to what it had been like before. My sex drive had also completely disappeared. I just had no desire to have sex, but as I was in a new relationship where previously the sex had been really good, I persevered, hoping it would get back to normal.

I returned to the doctor and was told that perhaps it was a bit of scarring. She told me she’d examine me on my next visit. Perhaps this was a mistake but I went home and started googling ‘scarring after LEEP’. I found a webpage, that told me it could be burnt off, using the same procedure I’d just underwent.

At this point my gut instincts kicked in. There was just no way I was undergoing the same procedure that had caused the problem to solve the problem. Perhaps the doctor would have suggested some completely different treatment, but fear, trauma, and mistrust made me decide the safest thing to do was not go back.

In the past I’d had success curing health issues with alternative methods. In my early twenties I’d had chronic fatigue syndrome, and recovered completely when I began practising yoga everyday. A few years later while studying for exams I had a backache where I couldn’t sit down for more than 15 minutes at a time. When a chiropractor and osteopath only fixed the problem temporarily, I took the advice of a friend and started meditating while lying on my back, focusing on the tension I felt and trying to relax it. I did this and within a few months of long meditation sessions, I could sit down long enough to watch a film at the cinema, and even go on a 7 hour train journey.

At the time I couldn’t allow myself to grieve for my lost sexuality. Instead I operated with a kind of blind faith that I could heal myself. I started meditating for hours each day, practising yoga, and belly dancing, to help release the tension I felt in my hips since the LEEP.

Before all this had happened I’d once had an intense sexual experience in which I had an orgasm that seemed otherworldly. The sense of pleasure I felt didn’t seem to come from my own body, but was like something that whooshed through the air, and was planted inside of me.  I joked about it being an ‘orgasm from god’ (although I’m not religious but spiritual), because it felt exactly like that!

But this sexual experience, had planted a seed inside of me, and before the LEEP I had been reading books about Taoist and Tantric sexuality and become interested in the idea of a relationship between sexuality and spirituality. This gave me the hope that even though my body felt sore and damaged there was a way of healing by tapping into this sexual energy which the books told me was universal spiritual energy.

Over time I did heal myself to a great extent. With the help of some massage techniques I learnt at a tantric workshop, I was able to to relax my body enough to enjoy sex again, and have better orgasms. I found that getting in the mood took a lot of effort, but once I got there it was enjoyable. My sex drive didn’t return to what it was, but I did at least come to a deeper understanding of sexuality, which felt like a gift out of all of the pain.

A few years later I was pregnant and something amazing happened. During the whole 9 months of my pregnancy my sex drive was completely restored. I have no idea why, and after the birth I did return to having a low sex drive again, but this experience gave me faith that there was nothing seriously wrong with my body, and that it could in time be healed.

Being a mother took over for pretty much the next five years of my life. Sex was much better than before the pregnancy, but I still didn’t have much of a sex drive. I found myself ignoring the problem, telling myself it was normal to be tired and not in the mood for sex, because I was a tired parent now, but deep down, I knew that my issue went much deeper.

From time to time through these years, I’d always wondered if this had ever happened to another woman. I’d googled from time to time, and since I never read of anyone else experiencing this I assumed it was just a ‘freak’ reaction of my own body. But one day I discovered a story that read so much like mine I was in complete shock.

What was most shocking and quite amazing to me, was that the woman described changes in her creativity, and in her very sense of perception of the sensory world around her. These were all symptoms I had experienced, but it was almost like there was no way I could grasp how a ‘minor’ treatment on my cervix could have caused all of these.

I read the comments in the article and discovered other women had been dealing with painful sex for years. I began to hone my google search and discovered more and more women who were dealing with the long term side effects of LEEP.

After reading about all of these women my perception completely shifted. Before I’d kept pretty quiet about my experience. It was like I couldn’t find the voice to tell my story because I thought I was the only one. And I couldn’t see the point in telling my story since I didn’t want to put women off having smear tests.

Now as I research more I have heard anecdotally from some women that another procedure called LASER seems to come with less side-effects. If you are going through this at the moment you might want to ask your doctor about it.

I am also finding there are good, scientifically- based reasons why some women may wish to avoid having smear tests completely. Dr. Margaret McCartney explains that despite some of the devastating stories we hear, cervical cancer is a rare disease. Because of the emotional anxiety testing causes, and the side effects of intervention, the risks do often outweigh the benefits. In her book The Patient Paradox: Why Sexed Up Medicine is Bad for Your Health she explains why each woman must make an informed choice and weigh up the risks for themselves before deciding to go for regular testing.

There are the risks of LEEP that were never mentioned to my young, naive, 25 year old self. The risk of cervical stenosis, of having a miscarriage, or a baby born prematurely. And there is this risk that seem completely unspoken; the destruction of a woman’s sexual self.

Asha, the author of the Unspoken Dangers Of LEEP article I linked to above was told by her doctor that she didn’t need to worry since there are no nerve endings in the cervix. However my tantric research led me to discover that women actually have three different kind of orgasms, clitoral, g-spot and cervical.

Feminist Naomi Wolf went through a similar experience to me and Asha, (though for different reasons) which she documents in her book Vagina.  She visited a doctor who explained to her that each woman has a slight different arrangement of nerve endings in her cervix, g-spot, and clitoris. This solves the age-old argument of whether the g-spot exists or not. Sexual sensation is slightly different for every woman and not all about the clitoris.

When Wolf temporarily lost her sexual sensation, She also notices she loses her creativity, a sense of transcendence and the brightness and colour that she normally perceived in the world. From this experience she learns that in a sense our cervix, vagina and clitoris are actually an extension of our brain.

It was learning this that made me understand many strange aspects of my life since the LEEP. I have had difficulty remembering dreams and also with my creative thinking. I have also struggled with feeling like I am really connected to things. For years I struggled with having the physical strength to do everyday tasks and to really ‘be’ in the world. These are all things that seem quite intangible and difficult to articulate, but when you have been in touch with your sexuality and creativity, losing it is like losing your self.

As I read Wolf’s words and heard from other women, I have completely reframed my experience. It’s not a weird side effect that my body had, it’s a perfectly understandably reaction to having my body cut into. I am shocked that this is considered an acceptable way to treat women’s bodies.

I am also beginning to realise that what happened to me was an act of violence. Immediately after the treatment, I remembered experiencing a pretty constant state of extreme fear, but I felt that there was nothing I could pin my fears onto. My job was stress-free, and life had been good. I have also had screaming episodes in my sleep for years that started around the time of the LEEP. I never remembered what was happening in the dreams, but this symptom also mysteriously disappeared while I was pregnant and for the first two years of my daughter’s life. Ever since I discovered that other women were effected like me I have found myself shaking as I read and research cervical smear tests, and the LEEP. Having read the work of trauma expert Peter Levine, I know that this shaking is a natural way in which the body releases stress after trauma.

It’s as if finally after all these years my mind has caught up with what my body always knew – that this ‘medical procedure’ was an act of sexual violence. It is based on an archaic understanding of how women’s body’s work and a gross disrespect of the relationship between body, mind, creativity and sexuality. I do not understand why doctors are doing this to women’s bodies. Is it because they do not understand what happens to us? If it took me 12 years to speak up I assume there are other women like me, who are silenced and traumatised by an act of violence that they cannot name.

To my 25 year old self, orgasms were pretty high up on my priority list. If a doctor had told me that there was a risk to my sex drive from the procedure I know I’d have walked out. I don’t have smear tests these days and I’m not worried about abnormal cervical cells (in most cases they don’t turn into cancer). Real symptoms are something to address and take seriously, but I never had cancer. I didn’t have symptoms. This preventative treatment, at least for me, is far more damaging than it’s benefits. Having a life with depression caused by sexual dysfunction, or an increased rate of heart disease due to lack of orgasms are health threats too. I’m doing well at rebuilding my sex life, and I don’t want to risk that. I’m in complete agreement with Dr McCartney, the risks of treatment for abnormal cells far outweigh the benefits.

Have you side effects from LEEP or from other routine medical procedures? Were you informed of the risks?