38 The Medical System
If You Need
to Go to the
If you need to have an operation or you have a serious illness,
first find out if it is possible to be treated without having to stay
in a hospital. If a hospital is the only place you can get the care
you need, this advice may help:
• Bring someone with you who can help you get the
attention you need and help you make decisions.
when they are
not necessary, or
when a medicine
could have worked
just as well. Get
opinion if you are
• Different people may examine you. Each one should write
down what he or she did on a card that stays with you.
This way the next person who cares for you will know
what has already been done.
• Before anyone begins a test or treatment, it is very
important to ask what they are going to do and why. This
way you can decide if you want them to do it and help
• Try to make friends with the staff at a hospital. They can
help you get better care.
• If you need to have some kind of operation, ask if it is
possible to have an injection to stop pain only in the area
being operated on (local anesthetic). It is safer and you
will get better more quickly than if you are given medicine
to make you sleep during the surgery (general anesthetic).
• Ask what medicines you are being given and why.
• Ask for a copy of your records when you leave.
Common operations for women
An operation is sometimes the only answer to a serious health problem.
During many operations, a doctor makes a cut in the skin in order to fix problems
inside the body or to change the way the body functions. Here are some of the
operations women commonly have:
• Emptying the womb by either scraping or suctioning (D and C, or MVA, see
page 244). Sometimes the lining of the womb must be removed—either
during or after an abortion or miscarriage, or to find the cause of abnormal
bleeding from the vagina.
• Birth by operation (cesarean section or c-section). When complications
make it dangerous for a woman or her baby to go through normal labor and
birth, a cut is made in a woman’s belly so her baby can be born. C-sections
can be necessary, but too often they are done for the benefit of the doctor,
not the woman. See the chapter on “Pregnancy.”
• Sterilization. During this operation, a woman’s fallopian tubes are cut and the
ends tied. This prevents her eggs from reaching the womb, so a man’s sperm
will not be able to make her pregnant (see page 223).
• Removing the womb (hysterectomy). A hysterectomy is a serious operation,
so it should be done only when there is no better way to solve your health
problem (see page 381). Ask if you can have your ovaries left in.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012