Ask Me About My Uterus

A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain


By Abby Norman

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For any woman who has experienced illness, chronic pain, or endometriosis comes an inspiring memoir advocating for recognition of women’s health issues

In the fall of 2010, Abby Norman’s strong dancer’s body dropped forty pounds and gray hairs began to sprout from her temples. She was repeatedly hospitalized in excruciating pain, but the doctors insisted it was a urinary tract infection and sent her home with antibiotics. Unable to get out of bed, much less attend class, Norman dropped out of college and embarked on what would become a years-long journey to discover what was wrong with her. It wasn’t until she took matters into her own hands — securing a job in a hospital and educating herself over lunchtime reading in the medical library — that she found an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis.

In Ask Me About My Uterus, Norman describes what it was like to have her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised. Putting her own trials into a broader historical, sociocultural, and political context, Norman shows that women’s bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth. It’s time to refute the belief that being a woman is a preexisting condition.



IT IS MY SINCEREST HOPE that some of what is in this book will no longer be applicable by the time it’s in your hands. Though a work becoming outdated may be embarrassing to some authors, as someone who is ill, I would be overjoyed if, in the time it took for this book to be published, science and society will have found answers to some of the questions I grapple with in these pages.

This book could never be fully comprehensive, and the research I’ve chosen to include represents only a fraction of what I encountered as a young patient parsing through it. Despite my determination, much to my dismay, I could never know all that there was to know, and as a reader I hope you will view all that I have written with a keen and critical eye. It was very important to me that I produce a portable book, so my ambition was not to provide a comprehensive history or review of the literature pertaining to women, illness, and pain. Rather, it was to provide some starting points from which you might seek to ask further questions and discover better answers.

Although this book includes research and interviews, I have framed the conversation around my own experience—not because I believe I can speak for anyone else, but because it seemed important to use the platform I have been given to call out the injustices I have observed (and in some cases experienced firsthand).

When debating the title for this book, I worried that it would be viewed as exclusionary to those who identify with the struggles portrayed but who do not have a uterus. I am firm in my conviction that endometriosis is not a uterine-dependent disease—as firm as I am in my conviction that not all women have a uterus and not all those who have a uterus identify as a woman. I do identify as a woman, and in telling this story I had to acknowledge what that identity meant in my journey. In the grander scheme of things, however, it should be noted that by no means is my having a uterus (for the time being, anyway) a requirement for my female identity, any more than it would be for anyone else.

I do not wish to become a poster girl, or “the voice of” anything depicted in this book: my experience is just one of many, and it is also one that benefited from the privilege of being a white woman. Where I have acknowledged how race and gender identity factor into my experiences in the broader sense, I have done so with the knowledge that there are others who could tell their own stories. We need to actively seek them out and listen to them.

Of course, there could never be one voice, or one story, that is wholly representative of the issues that are discussed in this book. But the voices of those who need to tell their stories have long been silenced. I offer up my own account to join what I hope will become many voices demonstrating the complexity of these issues, of ourselves, and of the fierce will of the human spirit.

In the same way that this book could never address all the research, it could not address every single event or person or conversation. I have, for the purpose of narrative and consideration for people involved in my story, obscured people’s identities, changed their names, and occasionally altered times and places (including those of all my doctors). The dialogue included in this book most often came directly from journal entries written promptly after the events described, though a few of the more recent ones are re-created from my memory. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and condensed for inclusion, or, in some cases, conducted via online exchanges.

Finally, it should be noted that any and all references to The X-Files or any other popular cultural phenomenon are not nearly as gratuitous as they may at first appear.

Abby Norman

June 2017


The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language runs dry.

—Virginia Woolf, “On Being Ill”

IN THE 1940S, A GROUP of researchers at Cornell University were trying to come up with an objective method to use in measuring pain. They suggested that a person’s pain threshold be measured in a unit they called the dol, which was short for dolor—Latin for “pain.” Once they had a name, they had to figure out what a dol actually was. The only way to do this was to design experiments that intentionally inflicted various types of pain onto human subjects, then scale them accordingly. So that’s exactly what they did: they came up with over a hundred different experiments using various pain-inflicting stimuli. As they reached the upper limits of pain, however, they were confronted with a very obvious problem. To understand pain at that level, they’d have to truly injure a subject, and the margin of error for something like that would have no doubt been very small. What they needed was a highly painful experience that wasn’t going to maim or kill anybody, and that they could easily observe. And that’s how researchers from Cornell found themselves in the obstetric wing of New York Hospital burning the hands of laboring women.

The results of the study were published in 1949. It might seem like the study’s authors would have had a lot of convincing to do when it came to recruiting women to take part, but, as they noted in their introduction, it actually wasn’t that hard. The majority of the women volunteered because they were curious about the work. Many of them were either married to doctors or had been nurses, and they understood the challenge that pain presented to the field of medicine. They were, however, a little dubious about the proposed method. “Most of the patients commented upon the fact that the sensation from the uterus would be different in quality, duration and locale, and, therefore, expressed some doubt as to the possibility of equating the two sensations in terms of intensity,” the authors wrote, though they noted that those concerns were not “borne out by experience,” and that the majority of the women cooperated in describing their pain without issue.

The experiment went like this: as the thirteen women in the study labored, in between contractions the researchers would burn one of their hands with a thermal device the researchers had calibrated to deliver varying levels of intensity. The researchers had set the value of a dol as “approximately one-tenth the intensity of the maximal pain,” which they were hoping the experiment would help them establish. What they really needed was for the women to be able to compare not just the intensity of the two types of pain, but their qualities. Of course, as the labor progressed, the women were understandably less communicative than at the outset, and so the researchers made inferences about their pain experience by noting their behaviors, “such as—crying, complaining, sweating and degree of alertness and cooperation.” Not surprisingly (to women, anyway), the pain experienced by at least one of the women achieved the maximum value for the dol pain-measurement scale—a 10.5, what the researchers called “the most intense pain which can be experienced.”

These experiments in dolorimetry provided a lot of fascinating data about pain, and it scientifically confirmed what women had known for millennia: that childbirth can push beyond the perceived limits of the human pain threshold. It did not, however, provide medicine with the kind of objective measurement it needed in terms of pain assessment. As compelling as the dol studies were, they still relied on the patient’s willingness and ability to report their pain, which was inherently subjective.

Of the research that was done to try to establish a truly objective measure of pain throughout the twenty-first century, what most people are probably familiar with is the 0–10 pain scale. The concept seems straightforward enough: you ask patients where their pain is on a scale of 0–10. Zero is no pain, and 10 is the worst pain they can imagine. Presumably, when patients report something somewhere in the middle, they’re comparing their current pain to previous painful experiences. Women who have given birth might compare a present pain to that of childbirth: “Not as bad as late-stage labor.” Or, if a patient has previously broken a bone, he or she might say, “Well, it’s worse than the time I broke my leg.”

Since we all have varying degrees of tolerance for pain, and have equally varied experiences with different types of pain, it makes the scale feel kind of meaningless—especially when you consider that the person trying to ascertain how much pain the patient is in has his or her own experiences with pain that are thrown into the mix, too. A doctor trying to figure out how much pain a patient is in, when she says it’s “worse than a broken leg,” but “not as bad as childbirth,” is still only going to be able to guess what that means based on his or her own experience—and perceptions—of pain.

This is true for any human being who witnesses another human being’s pain. When I was in the fourth grade, my best friend, Hillary, went to lift the grate off the top of a fire pit in her backyard, not realizing it retained the heat of the smoldering coals beneath, and suffered severe burns to both of her hands, which required, to my ten-year-old eyes, an impressive amount of bandaging. I remember helping her write her classwork, turning the pages of her books in school, and watching as she winced whenever any pressure, even the lightest playground breeze, touched the raw, pink skin.

I knew she was in pain, but I couldn’t know exactly how she felt. I had experienced a few childhood injuries that were pretty bad—the screaming, crying, bleeding kind—and I imagined it probably felt like that. But I couldn’t know for sure what it felt like to be in her body, and I found that deeply disconcerting. She was my best friend, and I wanted to take her pain away. But how could I, when I didn’t understand it?

BY LOOKING BACK THROUGH EMAILS, social media posts, and medical records, I can piece together what happened after I stepped out of my ill-fated shower that autumn day. I don’t remember exactly how I got from the bathroom back to the bedroom I shared with Rebecca. I don’t remember if the bongo drums were still beating beneath the loud swell of my heartbeat in my ears. I don’t remember whether the katydid flinched when I pushed my way back into the room, collapsing onto the bed. Nor do I remember how long I stayed there, curled up in the fetal position, before Rebecca woke up, shocked to find me there and not in class.

I do know that I didn’t miss an entire day, because that afternoon I took a picture of myself in class to send to Hillary back home. We’d been best friends since preschool, twenty-some years of sisterhood that was wildly envied by most of the people who knew us. Since we were now living several states apart, we often sent daily photos, texts, or videos to one another, and at the very least were always connected through whatever metaphysical sisterly magic had bonded us as little girls.

In the photograph, I have my hair up in a messy bun. I’m wearing a big sweater and looking away from the camera, and I seem exhausted and miserable. The image triggers the next cascade of memories for me: I was in my biology lecture, which I hadn’t wanted to miss, but I couldn’t concentrate. I don’t think I managed to take any notes, and as soon as it ended, I limped back across campus and went back to bed, having accomplished nothing aside from wearing myself out. The pain had reduced itself to a dull, almost undulating ache, a perfect storm ascending inside of me.

I felt feverish, nauseated, and like I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for the rest of the day and the better part of the next. I found it impossible to get comfortable: sitting up, lying down, fetal position, everything felt miserable. It felt like there was something inside of my body that was going to “pop” if I lay on my side or twisted my torso. I didn’t eat for days; it became hard to sleep. By the time my weekend shift at my work-study job rolled around, almost a week later, I had started to accept that something was seriously wrong. I remember showing up and putting the coffee on—and collapsing. For the first time in years, I cried. Inexhaustibly, snottily, hard. I told Rebecca I was sick and needed to go to the hospital, and her dark eyes regarded me with bewilderment. I don’t think I’d let on, until that moment, how bad I truly felt. Not even to myself.

If you’re wondering why I had waited about a week before going to the hospital, despite being quite obviously ill, the answer is a complicated one. There was the practical concern about cost, because I didn’t have decent health insurance. Many of my peers had benefited from the freshly minted Affordable Care Act, which allowed them to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they were twenty-six. I had forfeited all that upon my emancipation at age sixteen, and I was extremely concerned about how I would pay for the cost of any care I received, not to mention any medications I might be prescribed. God forbid that I’d have to figure out how to pay for a hospital admission.

Another element of my reluctance to seek help was deeply rooted in my personal psychology, part of a complex belief system I hadn’t yet been able to shed. As a little girl, whenever I would get sick with some routine childhood illness, my mother implored me to “talk myself out of it.” She was exhausted from her own illness and its antecedent psychological torture, and she didn’t have the energy to take care of a sick kid.

She was particularly harsh and unfeeling toward me if I had a stomach upset of some kind. I can only assume that my throwing up was a highly triggering event for her, given her illness. If I approached her for comfort in those long, seemingly endless dark nights of my childhood ailments, she rejected me. I took her revulsion personally, as I think any child would, and vowed never to get sick again. I began to use all my mental fortitude to “talk myself out of it” whenever I took ill, so that life could resume as per usual—for Mum and me both. There were occasions, of course, when I couldn’t use mind over matter. When I inevitably did throw up, or have a fever, or get strep throat for the umpteenth time in a given year, I internalized those instances as personal failings.

Yet another contributing factor was that the first time I had trusted a doctor, she had let me down. I know now that there are complexities to reporting suspected child abuse. I know that the suspicion must be high, that there must be proof. Given that I was hardly out of elementary school at the time, all I knew was that I was scared and hungry—and that white coats meant someone knew a hell of a lot and had power to make you better.

At some point as a child I’d developed an elevator pitch of my situation, trying to be ready for the oft-wished-for but never manifested opportunity when I would be alone with an adult who might be able to help me. I’ve never been a particularly succinct individual, though, so while my pitch was well articulated in my head, it never seemed to form as a cohesive statement. Instead it just sounded like a series of sighs and mumbles, along with the occasional throaty hack of nervous laughter.

The pediatrician asked my mother to leave the room when I was, if my memory serves, there for a routine immunization. I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven. My mouth went dry and my heartbeat ached in my ears. I don’t know if I was old enough yet to have the words “Don’t fuck it up” in my lexicon, but I very much had the feeling. As predicted, I didn’t stay cool, and it all came tumbling, dripping, cascading out of me. A truth purge.

The doctor’s wide-eyed look, which I construed as disbelief, was quickly replaced by a slap of fear. She wasn’t looking at me agog because of what I’d told her, but because my mother (who had been listening outside the door) had burst into the room. She seethed as she yanked me from the exam table and dragged me out into the hallway. The pediatrician followed us into the hall, but no farther, and I craned my neck to look back. I implored her with my eyes to do something. But she didn’t. She only stared at me with an expression of gaunt helplessness.

My mother flung me into the car, and I awaited sentencing for my transgression with the sincere hope that it would be something akin to her driving the car off the bridge into the frigid water below, killing us both. But she kept her anger in her jaw, clenched like a bear trap, until she could get home to release it.

I swallowed mine.

A DECADE OR SO LATER, before any doctor doubted my pain, I doubted it myself, because that’s what my mother had taught me to do. I was nineteen years old and didn’t want to be sick. It wasn’t even a question of want—I simply couldn’t be sick. I had to go to class. I was on a massive scholarship that was contingent on my academic success. I had friends to see, dances to do, a spectacular city within reach. I had so much life to live, and for the first time ever I was completely free of all that had hurt me and stolen my joy. That morning in the bathroom, as pain ripped through me like a bullet and I saw my mother’s face on my own, I tried harder than ever to talk myself out of being sick.

By the time I ended up in the hospital, I was inconsolable. Did I not want to be at Sarah Lawrence badly enough? Was I really so weak-willed and pathetic that I was getting worked up over a silly, stupid little ailment? I was becoming delirious from not eating, and I hadn’t been drinking much of anything, either. The pain in my belly had become all-consuming.

I sat slumped in a chair in the intake room. At first the nurse in triage seemed doubtful of my pain, because I was so subdued from all the crying that I just stared, glassy-eyed, at the wall. As she took my blood pressure, she seemed dubious. I had reported that the reason for my visit was a frightening amount of abdominal pain, and I guess she expected me to be screaming and rolling around on the floor. But the pain had exhausted me to the point of surrender. When I was taken back to a curtained cubicle, I dragged my book bag with me. Despite the fact that I could hardly keep my eyes open and would occasionally burst into tears, I was consumed by the reality that the following week I had a test to pass in my Russian class. Russian, as it turned out, was a difficult language to learn. Every second of studying counted, and since I’d been sick all week, I’d missed class as well as my tutoring session. I frantically tried to conjugate verbs, partially out of fear, but also as a method of distraction.

Aside from that morning, when I’d woken up and taken the notably apocalyptic shower, the only other time I’d experienced something that required me to go to the hospital in Bronxville had occurred about six months earlier, when a dance injury had ended in an ankle splint. That visit had been uneventful, relatively speaking. It wasn’t until I landed there in a weepy haze of terror that I actually took stock of the place. The emergency room was considerably more attractive than it needed to be. I was used to small-town hospitals that were a little on the dingy side and devoid of aesthetic frills.

Though it was a rather handsome hospital, once I got into the nurse’s station to have my vitals taken, I was no longer paying attention to the decor. That was when they first asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1–10. It was hardly my first encounter with the traditional pain scale, but something about that moment—and the many that would follow in the next five years—struck me as being somehow illogical.

Considering how sick I was, it wasn’t the time to get hung up on semantics, yet I was—to the point of being almost indignant. It wasn’t the nurse’s fault; nor would it be the fault of the doctor who would ask me again a few hours later. And yet I was right to question the efficacy of a numerical pain scale that attempted to quantify an entirely subjective experience.

Doctors in emergency rooms don’t have much investment in a patient’s well-being. First of all, they don’t have the time. Second, they have to maintain some professional detachment, or else they wouldn’t make it through a single shift. The pain scale doesn’t call on them to empathize with a patient, by attempting to understand their experience of pain, and supposedly, that makes it a good clinical tool. But even if it’s a good tool for clinicians, it’s not a good tool for patients.

The pain scale has many limitations. It’s only concerned with the intensity of the pain, not the duration, for example, and it doesn’t leave room for descriptions that provide essential information, such as “sharp,” “dull,” or “stabbing.” These adjectives, though not reflected by the 1–10 labels, can actually be very helpful in creating a diagnostic portrait, because certain types of injury or infection can inflict certain types of pain.

In June 2005, Harper’s ran a beautiful piece about the pain scale exploring its similarities to wind: “Wind, like pain, is difficult to capture,” wrote the author, Eula Biss. “The poor windsock is always striving, and always falling short.” Biss then eloquently explained that sailors eventually came up with a system to describe wind that consisted not just of a standardized numerical scale, but also names and categories for wind according to how it felt. It’s called the Beaufort scale: “A force 2 wind on the Beaufort scale, for example, is a ‘Light Breeze’ moving between four and seven miles per hour,” Biss wrote. “On land, it is specified as ‘wind felt on face; leaves rustle; ordinary vanes moved by wind.’”

How would we describe a 2 on the pain scale? The twinge of a mosquito bite? An itch you mistakenly scratched with a too-sharp fingernail? Describing a subtle pain is generally more difficult than describing an all-consuming one. On the other end of that spectrum is the 10: the worst pain you can imagine.

The problem has always intrigued me, because I like to think I’m a fairly creative person. I’m sure I could imagine some pretty extreme situations in which I would feel immense pain. I have questions, though: Is a 10 meant to be a pain that would kill me? If that’s the case, then how do you really measure the difference between a 9 and a 10? Are we physiologically capable of surviving a sustained 6 for a longer time than we could endure a brief 8?

There is another commonly used scale. It has cartoon faces wearing expressions that range from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts!” to Leslie Knope’s “Everything hurts and I’m dying.” It was designed for children, and yet it’s in about every doctor’s office I’ve ever been in. None of which, over the past five years, have been pediatrician’s offices.

But though it might be simpler, it’s not necessarily any better than the numerical scale, at least in part because it confuses its intended audience: children are arguably even less able to separate physical from emotional pain than adults. In her Harper’s piece, Biss explains that if you show the cartoon-face scale to a child who is scared, but not in pain, the child may still identify with the crying-pain face—the child misses the subtlety of the questions being asked.

But it’s not only children who conflate physical and emotional pain. When I stared at that pain scale in the triage room, crying and scared myself, I certainly didn’t identify with the faces that were just like “meh” about their pain. I was in pain, I was scared, and I was crying. Those three simultaneous realities didn’t necessarily feel independent of each other.

Maybe kids have the right idea, though: If my pain is enough to make me afraid, shouldn’t that stand to bump it up from, say, an I’m-coping-okay 4 to an I’m-really-not-functioning 5?

Later, writhing on a scratchy gurney, I perseverated on my answers to the pain-scale question because the nurse had seemed suspicious of me. Had I failed the test? Given the wrong answer? Should I have rounded down? Was my mother right to instill in me a tendency to play down my pain so that I wouldn’t inconvenience other people? Was that what the nurses and doctors expected me to do? Was that what I had expected myself to do?

It felt strange to consider, as I lay there gray-faced looking up at a slightly less gray ceiling, that I should have lied. Yet I felt guilty, too, because the more I thought about it, the more I second-guessed my interpretation of a 6. My mind spun, trying to reason out how I’d arrived at an answer. The pain was bad enough that I couldn’t ignore it, which made it definitely higher than a 4 or 5. It had been more painful a week ago, back when it had started—but then again, maybe I’d just grown accustomed to it. I couldn’t tell.

What did the nurse think a 6 was? What would the doctor think that a 6 should be? Tears of frustration came. What was the point of this pain scale if they weren’t going to believe me anyway?

By the time the doctor came in to examine me, I was even more exhausted than when I’d arrived. I was aware that I was still crying, and worried that while crying I couldn’t possibly present my situation rationally. The doctor seemed completely unsurprised by my distress. I was a Sarah Lawrence girl—historically what you might call “bright and wound tight.” He assumed that my issue was of a sexual nature, and it was only this assumption that managed to rouse me from my stupor.

Little did he know at that point that it couldn’t possibly have had anything whatsoever to do with sex, because I was a virgin—a fact that I was somewhat embarrassed to admit. Still, I didn’t want there to be any confusion, so I was firm in my assertion that he’d better come up with another diagnosis, because unless I was a modern-day biblical parable, there was no way I was pregnant. Nor was my body consumed by syphilis or any other sexually transmitted disease.

I’ll admit that at nineteen, I didn’t know much about sex, but there was one thing I did know: I wasn’t having any.

He also seemed uncomfortable, which made me feel worse. I was suddenly flooded by memories of being warned not to be “difficult” as a child. I stopped talking after several futile attempts to explain, deciding maybe it would be easier if I didn’t say anything at all. I was discharged without so much as a CT scan, prescribed a hefty dose of antibiotics, and encouraged to drink my weight in cranberry juice.

I spent the following week in bed, alternately crying and dry-heaving. I missed all of my classes (including the one where my fellow students took that Russian test). Instead, I made my way through Barbra Streisand’s entire filmography.

By the time the weekend came, having not had anything to eat but saltines and cranberry juice, I went to the hospital a second time. My pain remained unchanged, and the antibiotics had done little, aside from giving me diarrhea (which seemed entirely unfair, given how weak I had been to begin with). I saw a different doctor the second time around. He, unlike the doctor before him, didn’t balk at my tears, which were now a constant undercurrent rather than an occasional punctuation in the conversation. I’d started crying on Wednesday or so, and here it was Saturday and I hadn’t stopped.


  • Selected as one of the top ten titles in Lifestyle for Spring 2018.—Publishers Weekly
  • "Required reading for anyone who is a woman, or has ever met a woman. This means you."—Jenny Lawson, authorof Let's Pretend This Never Happened and FuriouslyHappy
  • "This book deals with such an important subject. Abby Norman's odyssey with her own health is sadly an all too common story to those of us who suffered in silence for so long. My hope is that anyone involved in women's health will read her story and revisit the way we treat women and their health concerns in our culture."—Padma Lakshmi, NewYork Times best-selling author and co-founder of the EndometriosisFoundation of America
  • "A fresh, honest, and startling look at what it means to exist in a woman's body, in all of its beauty and pain. Abby's voice is inviting, unifying, and remarkably brave."
    Gillian Anderson, Actress, activist and co-author of We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere
  • "[Norman] builds a convincing case that women describing discomfort are more likely than men to be dismissed by physicians, but along the way tells a story that will resonate with anyone (man or woman) who has ever experienced pain.... [She] is a terrific storyteller with a gift for weaving memorable anecdotes, some drawn from medical history, others from recent scientific debates and most plucked from her own travails... Norman's life is much more than a disease.... [An] important addition to a long tradition of pain memoirs. Norman shares a particular tale of suffering but expresses a common frustration about the dearth of words to convey pain. Any schoolgirl can talk about love, Virginia Woolf famously said, but 'let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.'"—New York Times Book Review
  • "Compelling and impressively, Norman's narrative not only offers an unsparing look at the historically and culturally fraught relationship between women and their doctors, it also reveals how, in the quest for answers and good health, women must still fight a patriarchal medical establishment to be heard. Disturbing but important reading."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "From wandering wombs to ovary compressors, Abby Norman's book is packed with fascinating historical detail about how women's bodies have been misunderstood and mistreated by male doctors for centuries. It is also an important reminder that there is still a culture of silence surrounding women's gynecological health in the twenty-first century, and that there is work yet to be done when it comes to advocating for women's healthcare."—LindseyFitzharris, author of The Butchering Art
  • "With searing prose, science writer and editor Norman pens a heartfelt medical history and memoir of coming to terms with the limitations of one's physical body....A thoughtful read."—Library Journal
  • "Abby Norman writes powerfully about her experience living with endometriosis and presents research on the disease and the history of women who were brushed off by medical professionals. You know, like how hysteria is anything that ails a woman, but the same symptoms do not equate hysteria in a man. It's hitting all my feminist and history and medicine buttons."—Book Riot
  • "Author and activist Abby Norman, has put decades of labor-including careful, independent medical study-into studying this phenomenon, as she describes in her book Ask Me About My Uterus, both a memoir and a trenchant manifesto."—The New Republic
  • "Read this book, share this book with a man in your life and consider this our full permission to storm off dramatically if someone suggests you 'just take a couple Advil and quit complaining'."—Purewow
  • "Norman doesn't sugarcoat just how difficult it can be to convince doctors that pain is legitimate. Instead, she offers searing commentary on how women have been conditioned to avoid seeking treatment or admitting that we feel bad in the first place."—The Cut
  • "Norman, now a science writer, articulates her own struggles with clarity and calmness."—Washington Post
  • "Tell[s] an alarming story about how difficult it is for women to access quality care; particularly those women suffering from poorly understood autoimmune disorders.... Leave[s] the reader galvanized, not despairing."—The New York Times
  • "Eye-opening."—Bustle
  • "Journalist and advocate Abby Norman uproots the paradigm that women must suffer their pain alone and in silence....a respectable entry into this genre of women's pain....As Norman puts it, the patriarchy of pain doesn't have to be the norm."—Pacific Standard
  • "Compelling....showing the toll poorly treated illness takes on a woman's life and the heroic effort required to contribute to the world regardless."—Ms. Magazine
  • "Ask Me About My Uterus educates from the perspective of the ill-a side rarely seen as in depth as it is in this incredible read."—BUST

On Sale
Mar 6, 2018
Page Count
288 pages
Bold Type Books

Abby Norman

About the Author

Abby Norman is a science writer and hosts a daily podcast on Her work has been featured in the Rumpus, Independent, Paste Magazine, Medium, Atlas Obscura, Seventeen, Quartz, Cosmopolitan, and Lady Science/The New Inquiry. As a patient advocate and speaker, she has been on conference faculty at the Endometriosis Foundation of America, Stanford University’s Medicine X conference, and received health literacy training through the Dartmouth Institute. She lives on the coast of Maine with her dog, Whimsy.

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