Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution

Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution

An eye-opening, investigative account of the dismal state of women's healthcare in the U.S.One of Elle's "30 Best Books to Read This Summer"American women visit more doctors, have more surgery, and fill more prescriptions than men. In Everything Below the Waist, Jennifer Block asks: Why is the life expectancy of women today declining relative to women in other high-income...

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Title:Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution
Author:Jennifer Block
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Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution Reviews

  • Caroline

    ***NO SPOILERS***

    It's been reported that doctors dismiss female patients while taking seriously male patients. For instance, doctors are more likely to miss symptoms of heart disease or heart attack in women than in men. Jennifer Block’s argument is that a feminist revolution in medicine is very needed, but that’ll only happen when the medical establishment genuinely values women; when women are more empowered; and when they're allowed to have a larger say in their care. Doctors need to check th

    ***NO SPOILERS***

    It's been reported that doctors dismiss female patients while taking seriously male patients. For instance, doctors are more likely to miss symptoms of heart disease or heart attack in women than in men. Jennifer Block’s argument is that a feminist revolution in medicine is very needed, but that’ll only happen when the medical establishment genuinely values women; when women are more empowered; and when they're allowed to have a larger say in their care. Doctors need to check their egos at the door and not just allow women to be proactive in their care but

    it. As this title suggests, Block focused specifically on care of the female reproductive system, a focus that allowed her to illustrate her point--that the medical field is sexist--most effectively.

    The female reproductive system covers a range of sub-topics, and Block laid out the facts thoroughly and specifically, with generous citing of studies from numerous reputable medical journals. Covered here is routine gynecologic care, hormonal birth control, infertility treatment, abortion, pregnancy, and childbirth. Her presentation is especially good. This topic has the potential to be complex and dry, but Block wrote engagingly, smoothly transitioning from one related topic to the next. I was gripped from the first page. It’s hard to believe medical care for women is really that dysfunctional until seeing the problems articulated in stark black and white--and this is only pertaining to the reproductive system. The reality is grim, and the real-life profiles illustrate that well.

    Errors in female reproductive care can be catastrophic. The trans-vaginal mesh (used to treat incontinence) and permanent birth control Essure have destroyed the quality of life of countless women and should never have been released. The more serious side effects of hormonal contraception are shamefully downplayed. A surgical instrument called a

    is convenient for surgeons but can be lethal if the tissue mass it's used on is cancerous. Far too many unneeded cesarian sections are performed each year. In some hospitals, 50% of babies are born via C-section. C-section is a major surgery with serious risks, but it’s fast for busy and impatient obstetricians. The phenomena of unneeded C-section has made it into news media, but Block deftly broke this down to get to the heart of why.

    Also overdone are complete hysterectomies as a cure for painful endometriosis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and fibroids. Hysterectomy is the second most common surgery in the U.S. after C-section when it should be a last resort. Right after the loss of a uterus and ovaries, women are sent into full-blown menopause, and often their sexual function is forever damaged. Relating to this, Block pointed out that a female equivalent to Viagra doesn’t exist. Women’s sexual enjoyment isn’t prioritized the way men’s is.

    On the topic of abortion, Block advocates for something radical: self-administering abortion. She detailed how the abortion procedure is fairly simple, and women can actually do it safely themselves if they’re taught. Additionally, midwives traditionally provided a full range of gynecologic care, not just pregnancy monitoring and delivering of babies. They’re qualified to perform abortions, just not licensed. Block believes that midwives, with their concern for the emotional well-being of their patients, are a more attractive option than the usually stoic and impersonal abortion clinic.

    I would have liked to hear more about racism in medicine. Block addressed the issue, but it looks like it warrants a chapter of its own. Black women and women in the southeast of America are more likely to get hysterectomies--and not because they have more risk factors. They also are more likely to get C-sections. In every aspect they’re especially poorly served or under-served; however, most interesting, and disturbing, are gynecology’s roots. Pioneering gynecologists in the South experimented, without anesthesia, on slave women, giving the field roots in the institution of slavery. Physicians in the North were reliant on poor immigrant women, mostly Irish, for their unanesthetized experimental surgeries.

    I’d improve this book in one small way: adding illustrations. I was particularly curious about the morcellator. I really wanted

    this device while reading about the disasters it can cause. I needed a visual of the device for self-administering abortion even more. Block explained that in detail, but I didn’t trust the image in my head. The same is true of Essure and the trans-vaginal mesh--what they look like and how they malfunction to cause irreparable damage.

    What I’ve reviewed here is but a tiny fraction of what’s in these pages. With

    , Block has made a significant, and especially well-timed, contribution to the subject. While right now much-needed attention is directed at sexual harassment and sexual assault, sexism in medical care doesn’t get all the attention it deserves.

    Because

    includes statistics, reading it now, while those are up-to-date, is ideal. Additionally, women are the obvious audience, but I urge men not to dismiss this book assuming it’s information they don’t need; on the contrary, there’s no reason men shouldn’t be just as informed and fight for equality in medical care. It goes without saying that medical professionals must read this.

    : "At Your Cervix," "The Bleeding Edge," “Orgasm Inc.,” “In Our Control,” and "Eggsploitation."

    : “Women Tend to Receive Disease Diagnoses Years Later Than Men Do, New Study Says”

    “Inside the Quietly Lucrative Business of Donating Human Eggs”

    NOTE: I received this as an Advanced Reader Copy from Goodreads in March 2019.

  • BMR, LCSW

    I got an ADC from Netgalley for review.

    I finished this a couple of days ago but I was not sure how to review it.

    I went back and forth on 4 or 5 stars, because there was a lot I disagreed with but ultimately it was so well written, and taught me so much I didn't know about previous fights for abortion rights, that I could justify the 5 stars for info and research. I loved the knowledge and history shared.

    I knew a little about birth trauma but some of the stories in here...it's enough to make you

    I got an ADC from Netgalley for review.

    I finished this a couple of days ago but I was not sure how to review it.

    I went back and forth on 4 or 5 stars, because there was a lot I disagreed with but ultimately it was so well written, and taught me so much I didn't know about previous fights for abortion rights, that I could justify the 5 stars for info and research. I loved the knowledge and history shared.

    I knew a little about birth trauma but some of the stories in here...it's enough to make you rip your own teeth out in anger over how women and anyone with a uterus are treated. I'm so tired of women and anyone with a uterus being treated like they exist solely as vessels to procreate, placing the supremacy of the uterus and its contents over the person with the uterus (I'm trying to explain it without being trans-exclusionary, hope that's okay).

    Recommended for anyone interested in human rights, healthcare policy, midwifery, doulas, childbirth, fertility issues, and anyone who cares about anyone w/a uterus.

  • Emily D

    Even though I haven't read it, I've rated it five stars to cancel out the one-star review of a guy who seems to be a Neo-Nazi.

  • Cari

    Block's PUSHED was an influential work in the fight against medicalized birth. I found it to be the most well-researched book I read while preparing for the deliveries of my children in 2012 and 2015. While there are never any easy answers when it comes to birth, Block covered the story from a well-rounded and evidence-based point of view. I appreciated this same perspective in this book, which expands the scope to include birth control, IVF, hysterectomy, and abortion. I generally consider myse

    Block's PUSHED was an influential work in the fight against medicalized birth. I found it to be the most well-researched book I read while preparing for the deliveries of my children in 2012 and 2015. While there are never any easy answers when it comes to birth, Block covered the story from a well-rounded and evidence-based point of view. I appreciated this same perspective in this book, which expands the scope to include birth control, IVF, hysterectomy, and abortion. I generally consider myself well-informed when it comes to health, but there were some topics covered here that I'd never encountered, and I will be thinking about them for some time as I consider how to navigate my post-childbearing years.

  • Melissa

    “This is a book about feminism’s unfinished revolution in women’s health.”

    Fascinating, informative, and appalling, Jennifer Block has written the most revealing book on women’s healthcare to date. This one is a must read for every woman currently under the care of the US healthcare system as well as all medical providers.

    Offering up an extensive history of women’s healthcare, this book can at times be a bit dry. But those dry facts shed light on history many of us may not know as well as the ant

    “This is a book about feminism’s unfinished revolution in women’s health.”

    Fascinating, informative, and appalling, Jennifer Block has written the most revealing book on women’s healthcare to date. This one is a must read for every woman currently under the care of the US healthcare system as well as all medical providers.

    Offering up an extensive history of women’s healthcare, this book can at times be a bit dry. But those dry facts shed light on history many of us may not know as well as the antiquated and often counterintuitive medical practices providers and insurance companies are pushing on women.

    Block does an excellent job of reminding us of the feminist vision for modern day healthcare and the compromises we’ve actually accepted. After flat out scaring us with statistics on unnecessary surgeries and procedures, stories of bullying by medical staff, and the reminder that it takes 17 years for scientific evidence to change medical practice, Block paints a vivid picture of what could be with women and advocates who are standing up, fighting back and saying no.

    Block has furthered an important discussion that no woman should shy away from. It’s your body, it’s your right to know, defend and protect it, and Block’s book is a great step in that direction.

    Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  • Mary

    is a thorough investigation of women's health care. Block examines topics such as birth control, fertility/infertility, routine gynecological exams, and so much more. She dives deeply into each topic, and her research often goes back decades as she strives to give readers an understanding of how practices have evolved over the last 50-100 years. She makes a solid case that many common practices for women's health care are not based on good research and are not serving

    is a thorough investigation of women's health care. Block examines topics such as birth control, fertility/infertility, routine gynecological exams, and so much more. She dives deeply into each topic, and her research often goes back decades as she strives to give readers an understanding of how practices have evolved over the last 50-100 years. She makes a solid case that many common practices for women's health care are not based on good research and are not serving women well.

    This book has the potential to be controversial, and I believe Block alludes to that throughout the book. She wades into the murky debate of many different big issues, and she isn't afraid to highlight issues on both sides. Despite the book calling for a feminist movement in women's health care, Block shows how the feminist revolution may have hurt or, at the very least, hindered women's health care over the past few decades. She also doesn't stray away from highlighting poor medical practices or sharing the stories of women who have been bullied by doctors.

    I will admit, there were times where my perspective on things did not line up with Block's, but I really appreciated her research, as well as the way she weaves statistics and stories into a cohesive narrative. It's also worth knowing that some of the stories are heart-wrenching and shocking--there were moments where I wanted to cry for the women who have dealt with awful situations brought about by the very people who were supposed to help them.

    While I have never experienced a traumatic experience like some of the women in the book, I know what it's like to feel belittled by a medical care giver, and I've had situations where I have avoided unnecessary procedures by doing my own research and being my own advocate. However, the only way I've been successful is by having a primary care doctor who not only took the time to listen to me, but was also respectful of my desires and willing to consider what was truly best for me. I deeply appreciate the case that Block makes for a health care system that truly values and respects woman because I want good health care for myself and all the women in my life. If I had any criticism at all, it would be that I didn't find her chapter on abortion compelling, and it didn't seem as thoroughly researched as her other chapters. However, this is one area where my personal beliefs don't align with hers, so I freely admit that my criticism may be coming out of my own bias.

    Regardless, I believe that her research will be truly helpful to women, doctors, and health care professionals as they contemplate the current state of women's health care, and I hope that it will lead to future changes in the health care system.

    A big thanks to Jennifer Block, St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read and honestly review this book!

  • Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

    An eye-opening, investigative account of the dismal state of women's healthcare in the U.S.

    American women visit more doctors, have more surgery, and fill more prescriptions than men. In Everything Below the Waist, Jennifer Block asks: Why is the life expectancy of women today declining rela

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

    An eye-opening, investigative account of the dismal state of women's healthcare in the U.S.

    American women visit more doctors, have more surgery, and fill more prescriptions than men. In Everything Below the Waist, Jennifer Block asks: Why is the life expectancy of women today declining relative to women in other high-income countries, and even relative to the generation before them? Block examines several staples of modern women's health care, from fertility technology to contraception to pelvic surgery to miscarriage treatment, and finds that while overdiagnosis and overtreatment persist in medicine writ large, they are particularly acute for women. One-third of mothers give birth by major surgery; roughly half of women lose their uterus to hysterectomy.

    Feminism turned the world upside down, yet to a large extent, the doctors' office has remained stuck in time. Block returns to the 1970s women's health movement to understand how in today's supposed age of empowerment, women's bodies are still so vulnerable to medical control—particularly their sex organs, and as result, their sex lives.

    In this urgent book, Block tells the stories of patients, clinicians, and reformers, uncovering history and science that could revolutionize the standard of care, and change the way women think about their health. "Everything Below the Waist" challenges all people to take back control of their bodies.

    This is an important book for people involved in healthcare should read - it should also be read by anyone with a vagina so they know what medicine is doing to in regards to their female health concerns. Given the OB/GYNs have the highest malpractice insurance it is surprising that they are so surgery-happy. This excellent book will give you the ability to take control of your lady-parts smartly and keep out of an OR unless it is absolutely necessary.

    I will add one comment, though, living in Canada our "free health care" (aka paid by crushing income taxes) gives you even fewer choices as it can be a year before you can get into a gynaecologist for your "complaint"! That can give you time to research alternatives and form opinions - heck, it can take 6-8 weeks to get an ultrasound that will lead to a possible appointment with said gynaecologist!

  • Jessica

    (I received my ARC of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway).

    I will start off by saying this book has taken me so long to finish because it is so heavy and in your face with information that it is at times quite overwhelming. (The first chapter about birth control pills actually sent me into a panic attack).

    However, as I've continued reading, this book has become my very own personal Healthcare Bible. I've probably dog eared at least 50 pages for my own future reference because I kept reading and t

    (I received my ARC of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway).

    I will start off by saying this book has taken me so long to finish because it is so heavy and in your face with information that it is at times quite overwhelming. (The first chapter about birth control pills actually sent me into a panic attack).

    However, as I've continued reading, this book has become my very own personal Healthcare Bible. I've probably dog eared at least 50 pages for my own future reference because I kept reading and thinking "yes, that's me! That's what I'm going through!" Block's work is vital and necessary to improving women's healthcare and ensuring that we don't slip back into the dark ages.

    If you are a woman, identify as a woman, love a woman, and/or know a woman, then you should read this book.

  • Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)

    When I read the synopsis of this book, I knew I wanted to read it immediately. As someone who has both chronic physical and mental illnesses, I have experienced the way our medical community often treats women. Everything Below the Waist contains not only a great deal of information on the state of women's healthcare, but also includes a lot of real life stories from women. I very much agree with the statement in the synopsis, that women are often over-diagnosed and over-treated. And I have witn

    When I read the synopsis of this book, I knew I wanted to read it immediately. As someone who has both chronic physical and mental illnesses, I have experienced the way our medical community often treats women. Everything Below the Waist contains not only a great deal of information on the state of women's healthcare, but also includes a lot of real life stories from women. I very much agree with the statement in the synopsis, that women are often over-diagnosed and over-treated. And I have witnessed first hand how male doctors often brush off female patients, as the author will talk about in the book. I am going to try not to make this a long review, but it is a topic I am fairly passionate about and I am so glad an author finally brought it to attention.

    The author talks about a variety of women's health topics in the book and in one chapter, she talks about how women are frequently over-diagnosed and over-treated. I am going to tell a quick personal story about why I was so happy to see this finally addressed in a book. I have always had gynecological issues, ranging from reoccurring cervical cancer to ovarian cysts to a great deal of pain. Several years ago, my OB transferred me to another doctor within in the practice who dealt more with these issues. He has a great bedside manner and I really liked him. After looking over all my test results and asking me a great deal of questions, he did a pelvic exam. When he got to my right ovary and he could see I was in obvious pain, he made his diagnosis. He told me that I had endometriosis and that he could feel that my right ovary was adhered to my pelvic wall. I was surprised to hear this but grateful for a diagnosis until he sat there explaining to me that there was a good chance he would have to remove that ovary. I went home crying to my then boyfriend, now husband, and was incredibly anxious for 3 weeks until I had surgery. I had to write out all these medical instructions for the doctor depending on what he found, where he would have to come talk about anything with my mom & boyfriend before removing any organs. I remember walking into the hospital crying and shaking because I was scared of losing my ovary. Fast forward to me waking up from surgery, groggy and disoriented. The surgeon comes into speak with us and says, "Well, I didn't find much, there is a small spot of endometriosis on one of the right ligaments that is too deep to remove and pelvic congestion syndrome, otherwise we flushed the tubes and uterus and everything looks good. I literally said, "What the f*ck?" to my mother & boyfriends horror because this surgeon had drilled into my head his "diagnosis" when really, he couldn't make a diagnosis until I had surgery.

    Around this time, I started bringing my now fiance to all of my doctor's appointments, as I found my doctors seemed to listen to me and take me seriously with a man present. I continue to bring him to almost all of my appointments today. I imagine I am not alone in this and it is a tragedy that in our society, women can't always trust their doctors. I could write 100 personal stories that relate to everything the author talks about in this book, but I will spare you.

    I have read quite a bit about the labor & delivery culture in America, which is far behind every other country in anything related to pregnancy, birth & infants. However, the personal stories in the section about this topic were horrifying to me. Doctors doing procedures even when a patient says no; doctor's calling CPS when a woman won't sign a consent form; unnecessary c-sections and stories of nurses holding patients down to do things against their will. I am currently pregnant, so some of these things I have read about but others were a total shock to read. That fact that this occurs in our country is disturbing and I am so glad that the author has addressed all of these issues in her book.

    There was a chapter on abortion, which I tried to read, but because of my personal beliefs, I ended up having to skim that chapter. I understand that it is part of the medical system that effects women, it was just too difficult for me to read.

    Beyond that, this book was fantastic and I highly recommend that every woman read this book. I can't tell you how many times I stopped to tell my husband about what I had just read because it directed related to experiences I had with previous doctors. It was also nice to know that this happens to a lot of women and not just me. I could go on and on about how great this book was and I definitely recommend adding it to your TBR for July. It covers SO many important topics and I have to imagine that most women can easily relate to it.

    Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin's Press, for sending me an ARC of this book.

  • Donna Hines

    "An eye-opening, investigative account of the dismal state of women's healthcare in the U.S."

    As a woman who has suffered from chronic back pain which was finally diagnosed 30 yrs later as spinal canal stenosis, DDD, Bilateral Facet Atrophy, and severe foraminal narrowing requiring surgery I can tell you this, never trust doctors when they note that's normal wear and tear, that taking steroids or drugs is common place, that it is not significant or that as the physical therapist told me once they

    "An eye-opening, investigative account of the dismal state of women's healthcare in the U.S."

    As a woman who has suffered from chronic back pain which was finally diagnosed 30 yrs later as spinal canal stenosis, DDD, Bilateral Facet Atrophy, and severe foraminal narrowing requiring surgery I can tell you this, never trust doctors when they note that's normal wear and tear, that taking steroids or drugs is common place, that it is not significant or that as the physical therapist told me once they can find anyone with my problem off the street.

    I've suffered since I was a teen and learned recently that I tore a disk, have multiple disk bulges/herniation, and such severe foraminal narrowing on left side that's pinching on the nerve and causing temp leg paralysis which I've complained about claudication from nerve damage in my legs for years only to have a doctor tell me he couldn't find anything wrong.

    This novel is exactly what needed to be said about women's health care.

    We are not crazy. We are intelligent beings who need answers not drugs!

    I wish I had this book with me years ago...

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