Book Review: Womb by Leah Hazard

The subtitle of Womb proclaims “The Inside Story of Where We All Began”. Leah Hazard, with a background in both journalism and midwifery, delves into the sometimes taboo topic of women’s anatomy. What is a uterus? What role does it play in women’s health? What do we know and what do we not know? She looks at the history of women’s health in the medical field and all the varied (*cough* patriarchal) reasons that women’s health is so often overlooked or straight up ignored. She digs into topics like what exactly is period blood and why is it not actually just blood? For a lot of people, this might be a squeamish topic but I would recommend this book all the more. For women, absolutely, but this really is a big for everyone and it would be great to see men reading it too. Hazard has a clear goal of breaking down many of the taboos around women’s health; partly because there’s no reason to be squeamish about a body part half of the population has and partly because a reluctant to discuss such matters quite literally can lead to illness and death.

Personally, I spent over two decades not thinking about my uterus at all and then thought very heavily about it for about 4 or 5 years. I became newly acquainted with my uterus when I learned that it was the wrong shape and I was strangely warmed when, in the introduction, Hazard describes the variations that a uterus can have and includes my own with the words:

And my favourite of all, the bicornuate uterus, possessed by about 3 percent of all women: a roughly heart-shaped womb”

Leah Hazard, Womb

Somehow it reminded me of the aftermath of a procedure that I had back in 2014 called a hystersalpingogram. Basically, a dye is used to flood the fallopian tubes and uterus while an x-ray is taken. This was done by my OBGYN in order to determine the precise shape of my uterus. While going over the results with me afterward, he leaned in eagerly over my x-rays and told me pregnancy could still be possible. “The uterus is amazing,” he told me, “There’s no other organ like it. The way it just stretches!” (He always vaguely reminded me of Jeff Goldblum, just to paint you a picture.) While the news was very welcome, part of the reason that moment has always stuck with me was because I had never heard anyone speak of the uterus with such enthusiasm and admiration. I had seen diagrams and studied its function in sex ed classes and high school biology, but I’d never thought of just how amazing this organ is.

It’s this same enthusiasm and delight that Hazard brings to this book and it is what makes the book so readable and enjoyable. There is a lot of science here and clearly a lot of research. There are chapters on Labour and Reprocide and Menopause and dozens of interviews that Hazard undertook and references throughout. As a whole, the book is very thorough. At the same time, it never felt like too much, even for someone like myself who only knows the medical system as a patient and didn’t pursue science beyond that Biology 11 class.

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Womb by Leah Hazard”

  1. I’m going to see if I can find a copy of this one. I typically find my uterus confusing, and, like, I’ve owned it for 38 years. I was so excited to read that book The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jen Gunter, but it literally was only the vagina. No uterus, nothing else, and she was saying her second book (which may be out for all I know) would be about menopause. Like, show the uterus some love!

    1. You should definitely try this one then! I got mine at the library. What do you find confusing? I think I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with mine and this book made me think more about how this is a part of my body that plays an important role and not just in hosting babies.

    2. Things like having cramps but no period, or the way my hormones fluctuate, and it affects my skin, or how the uterus is so close to intestines, and pain from one can be confused with the other, etc.

    3. Oh yes, the way it’s all inter-connected in our bodies and yet so much of healthcare seems to act like the uterus is this rogue item off doing its own thing, separate from the rest of the body. That part of the book was really interesting, how uterine health interacts with our whole body.

  2. This sounds like a great (and important!) read! It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized how patriarchal our medical system still is. There are so many things we sitll don’t know, and it seems like no one cares about finding out. Things that ‘women just have to deal with’ and no further research will be done, the end. Meanwhile, prostate cancer is flooded with research money! Hairloss in men, flooded with research money! It’s definitely frustrating.

    1. That is very true! Hazard delves into the history of a lot of that patriarchy and it’s eye-opening how much we’re expected to “just deal with” compared to men’s health.

    2. I’m reading a book right now about a famous female abortionist and it’s really fascinating how she was treated and how doctors dealt with childbirth back then (1830-1870s America)

    3. What book is that? One thing that stuck out in Womb is how much women’s health in the last couple hundred years has been dominated by men and how even now men tell women what their childbirth experience should be like!

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