cover image Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began

Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began

Leah Hazard. Ecco, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-315762-0

Midwife Hazard (Hard Pushed) delivers a bravura cultural history of the uterus and the politics that surround it. Surveying how gendered ideas and expectations impact uterine health, she traces the history of obstetrics and notes a tendency in such terms as “irritable uterus” and “incompetent cervix” to “conflate a woman and her uterus into one troublesome package.” Stories of women navigating medical institutions highlight the frequent disregard that patients often encounter from professionals, as when it took weeks for doctors to take a pregnant woman’s complaints about debilitating pain seriously enough to perform a scan that revealed a dangerous abnormality. Hazard passionately argues for abortion access, telling of women in Ireland and Poland who died from sepsis because doctors refused to perform the potentially lifesaving procedure. Whether discussing such antique myths as the “wandering womb” or providing a firsthand account of a uterine transplant, Hazard’s eye is keen, her range broad, and her tone scrupulously compassionate. Additionally, this benefits from the author’s recognition that people relate to their wombs in myriad ways, as exemplified in her interview with a trans man on how his quality of life improved after a hysterectomy. This is essential reading on the “most miraculous and misunderstood organ in the human body.” (Mar.)