I was watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries with my best friend, and they mentioned the “wandering womb.” Naturally, I wondered what that meant, and upon researching, I learned some interesting -and outdated- information.
Back in the day, people were very invested in pointing out the differences between men and women, rather than focusing on the similarities. And the big biological difference between men and women is that women menstruate and have a uterus. This knowledge was constantly used against women in various ways: women were not intellectually or religiously up to par because of menstruation, women were known to be more “hysterical” because they have uteri, and therefore should not hold positions of high power, women are moody and more fragile because of this mysterious “wandering womb.”
The Greek believed “the womb could head upward and downward and left and right to collide with the liver or spleen–movements. If it moved up, for instance, the womb caused sluggishness, lack of strength, and vertigo… Should the womb descend, there would be a ‘strong sense of choking, loss of speech and sensibility’ and, most dramatically, ‘a very sudden incredible death.'”
Now, I can’t speak for all women, but if my uterus started moving, I would be shocked, to say the least. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that sounds like it would be uncomfortable, and definitely not healthy! Clearly, none of our wombs are out and about. So what is the wandering womb? Without the medical research that we have today, the wandering womb was simply a term to describe women who were suffering endometriosis, an abnormal tissue growth on the outside of the uterus. When one has endometriosis, she might feel extreme pain in the lower stomach and pelvic area, have bad periods with heavy bleeding, become infertile, and have body aches. And all this can definitely make a woman a little grumpy. But instead of examining the cause of this pain, for decades, people have been waving off endometriosis as “women just being emotional” or “just a bad period,” when actually, it can be quite a serious problem, and even become cancerous (though mostly, the tissue does stay benign). Over the years, the wandering womb has become a colloquial phrase, and reason, to call a woman over-emotional.
There is still no known cause for endometriosis (maybe there would be, if people funded women’s health science, or if the doctors centuries ago took more time to look into this, instead of making suffering women have orgasms, exorcisms, or spraying them with holy water…), but if you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, you should definitely go to a gynecologist. Many doctors will not identify the endometriosis, and will just tell you it’s period cramps and to take painkillers. They are not always good about running the tests needed to rule out endometriosis, even if you insist, so a gynecologist is the best bet to get good care and possible hormonal treatments for endometriosis.