Friday, September 11, 2009

The cycle of Asherman's syndrome needs to be broken with prevention

In my next blog I will explain why it is that current treatment (surgery and hormone therapy) can never be a cure for all women who have been diagnosed with Asherman’s syndrome (AS). However I also want to explain why my position on prevention as the best approach is unwavering. I’ve always maintained that I would continue to spread my word about prevention even if I was lucky enough to have a baby after AS treatment. This is because I realize that I would be one of the lucky minority if I did. Just because I may be fortunate enough to have a child after my diagnosis and treatment doesn’t mean I should forget about all of the others who didn’t. It’s not about how ‘hard’ you try or how ‘deserving’ you are- one has to understand that the body has its limits according to the damage that was incurred and other factors. I would realize that my case may not have necessary been as severe or my situation not as dire as others who were inflicted with this condition. It would be unfair to the women who have done all they possibly could to achieve a live birth but didn’t succeed to not acknowledge that each case is different not only in severity but also the circumstances in which it happens. As a PhD scientist (molecular microbiology) I know there are no hidden Asherman’s experts out there: all of the ones who are truly experts have peer reviewed published papers on outcomes in their patients following treatment. That is the nature of these careers. One is judged and recognized according to their publication record. And I have read those papers and know what the outcomes are. I would feel daft to go around telling other women not to worry about getting Asherman's syndrome because it can be treated when a) according to statistics from the best doctors, the majority of women will not have a live birth after AS, and b) it doesn't have to happen in the first place. I know also that personally, I could never forget what happened to me for no justifiable reason. Imagine if someone almost accidentally killed you through a preventable and routine careless act but you were saved by a treatment which has a 50% failure rate at best- would you think it was better to promote the treatment , or would you want to do something to prevent another person from possibly losing their life? If I will ever be fortunate to have a child after Asherman’ s syndrome it doesn’t mean that it is still acceptable to damage women through the systematic use of D&C when alternatives exist. I cannot forget the years of suffering, of fearing I will never have a child, the sleepless nights, the tears, the time lost waiting for treatment as I now had to race against my biological clock, the negative pregnancy tests month after month, the failed IVF, the worries that even if I were to become pregnant post AS pregnancies are high risk, none of that will ever be ‘worth it’. For me, to say something is ‘worth it’, it has to be something challenging that I chose for myself, not what someone (ie a treating Dr) did to me. For example, my PhD- those were some of the most difficult and challenging years of my life, performing experiments until late at night and on weekends, reading hundreds of papers, spending months writing my thesis. But I wanted to do, and it was worth it! Without all that hard work I wouldn't have achieved it. On the other hand, it should not be a struggle to have a child when nothing is wrong with you in the first place. Isn't there enough infertility and heartache in the world without doctors causing Asherman's syndrome?

As women we are expected to be martyrs and put up with all kinds of assaults on our bodies without complaining. It’s supposed to be the very essence of being a caring, nurturing Madonna, to put ourselves last. I prefer to be proactive and warn women about the dangers of D&C, and let doctors know it is not OK to perform D&Cs at the drop of a hat. It’s not acceptable to pretend there are no alternatives and to keep silent when prolife activists prevent drug companies from seeking FDA approval for drugs which can prevent fertility loss and even mortality because they also happen to be used for abortion.

You see, it’s not just about me. Of course I’m angry that it happened to me, especially given the particular circumstances- I was 39 and it was my first pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. Given my age I was extremely concerned about future fertility. I had asked about the risks of D&C and in particular about AS only to be told it was rare, I had asked for alternatives like misoprostol only to be told it was ineffective and refused. I had put up a brave stand to avoid D&C by waiting to miscarry myself (which I did) and after all of that I was told that I had RPOC and had to have a D&C or risked getting AS from an infection (balogna!). The pathology report showed that I only had a blood clot and some tiny fragments and no infection. But it's not that I am a disgruntled, childless older woman: even if I were to have a child, it’s the principle that I find objectionable- that women are continuing to go through this needless suffering because doctors will not give up an archaic surgery even when other safer and cheaper medical options have been developed.

Once again, to be clear, I encourage all women who have been diagnosed with Asherman’s syndrome: please seek help from an expert for treatment if you want to have a chance of having a child. I won’t ever regret having treatment even if I don’t succeed in having a child because I know without it there would be no possibility of it. I gave myself the best odds that I could in a situation which never should have happened to me in the first place. But just because it happened to me it doesn’t mean it should continue happening to others! There is nothing I gain out of pain and suffering of other women. It makes me somewhat angry that other women who have had it before me have done nothing to prevent it from happening to me and others. It makes me somewhat resentful that the information I was after about D&C risks and alternatives for miscarriage management were not readily available to me at the time that I needed it. And I refuse to continue that cycle which is why I am doing everything possible to warn and educate women about the big coverup about Asherman’s syndrome and D&C risks and the existence of cheaper and safer alternatives. Not to mention the exaggeration of treatment success to patients as an excuse to hinder prevention. Of course, anything that promotes further dependence on doctors is encouraged and supported by the medical community while prevention is ignored. It’s time to break the cycle-now.

Some women speak of the spiritual journey AS has given them in a way where they almost sound thankful that it happened to them! All I can say it that I don' t understand people who are thankful for unnecessary damage to be inflicted upon themselves. Only someone who didn’t feel they were worthy or seriously deluded would think it was a blessing in disguise. Asherman’s syndrome was never ‘meant to be’. It only happens because many doctors are unwilling to offer alternatives to D&Cs and nothing is being done about it.

In my ‘journey’ I have learned a lot from having Asherman’s syndrome. I have learned that there is an urgent need for women to speak out against the routine use of D&C for miscarriage. I have learned that women should at the very least be given the right to choose which treatment option they prefer. I have learned that women must pressure doctors and the government to approve of all drugs which can help to safely evacuate the uterus and that these should be the first line of therapy for miscarriage and other indications instead of D&C. I have learned that not all doctors act in the best interest of their patients so patient activism is required for change.

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