Sculpture FAQ

Over the years these little beauties have raised some eyebrows.
Below are the responses I currently have to these questions.

mural from mexico, of women in a temezcal, doing traditional healing

– What is the purpose of these sculptures?

1) First and foremost, these are pieces of art, and tools for women to ‘connect’ to and understand the dynamic nature of their uterus.

2) Secondly,  to show a standard nulliparious adult womb at midcycle (‘ovulation’ sculpture), and also show some colors of menstrual blood, as well as an upper range of womb change possible towards the beginning of the menstrual cycle (‘mensing’ sculpture). And to show a presentation of a menopausal womb 5 years beyond menstrual cessation, demonstrating yet more tissue changes in the life of the womb.

– Why are womb weight/size changes important to understand? 

Because *where* the uterus is positioned in your pelvis will impact your wellbeing, especially when it’s bigger and heavier.  For more information on this, please research the work of Dr. Rosita Arvigo, DN, and maya abdominal massage.

 I read about these sculptures. Is it that the womb increases in weight, and not size?

My understanding is that the womb actually does increase both. This is proven both scientifically and through the test of time in traditional folk healing lineages for women.

Here are two such references:

  Piiroinen O, Kaihola HL.  “Uterine Size Measured by Ultrasound During the Menstrual Cycle.”  Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1975; 54 (3): 247-50.
“In the following study changes in the size of non-pregnant uterus were measured by B-scan ultrasonography. Uterine size in different stages of the menstrual cycle was measured ultrasonically in 16 women, whose periods were confirmed to be ovulatory, both by basal body temperature (BBT) and by the radioimmunological measurement of plasma estradiol and progesterone. It was established that the size of the uterus grows significantly towards the end of the menstrual cycle…”

Dr. Rosita Arvigo, DN. Professional  Care Training manual.  Published 2013, 6th edition. pg. 37.
“In the non-pregnant state, the uterus is about 3 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick, 
and weighs 4 ounces. During menstruation, the uterus can weigh as much as 8 ounces.”

It is my hope that as science studies women’s bodies more (they have not, as much as men’s, up to this point, though that is slowly changing) we will see the wisdom of these sculptures become less threatening to the current thinking. 

What makes us think all wombs are the same size in all women all the time no matter what they are doing, except when pregnant? (Do you see the blind spot?)

There’s a huge gap of understanding here, and it’s a blind spot… and it’s easier for me to see because I have palpated so many wombs in so many stages through my work doing maya abdominal massage with women for over a decade.

But don’t believe me. Believe your own body instead.

If you are in your fertility years, and do not take the birth control pills or hormones, your womb will likely change weight and engorge right before your mensing. You can actually feel it for yourself by palpating gently, through the belly. (But don’t try this if you have an IUD in place.) It is often above the pubic bone, right before the menses starts. Feel for it again two weeks later, and you tell me the difference!

I really think we don’t know this is normal unless we’ve been educated about it. Were you taught this? I was not, through no fault of anyone, until many years of debilitating menses pain brought me to these concepts, seeking answers for myself.

Ladies, please do not discount your body’s feelings around the menses. Please DO pay attention… please sense in and notice the weight and the pull of your womb right before you menstruate.
As women it’s relevant for us to honor our own information, as much as we consider the science.

– Why not make ‘only’ medical data Models? Why the “WOO WOO”?

The short answer? 

There’s already medical-only models out there. My sculptures are not this. I encourage you to have many styles of models to teach from!

The long answer?

These sculptures are inspired by the teachings of traditional healers who hold knowledge of the womb, and who are adept at feeling changes in the organ through palpation. The world of science has not yet caught up to some of the wisdom that traditional healers have passed down for generations through oral tradition. Through acute observation, they had understanding of what worked even if they didn’t understand a western medical version of ‘why’. (I’m sure they had their own valid explanations that fit into their culture’s world view, healing paradigm, and spiritual concepts!)

As women learn more about this sacred organ, they may find that the information they learn through traditional healers, or are able to gain through their own intuition and life experience, is sometimes not validated by the modern western medical model.

Because of this, when learning about their own womb, women need more than just strictly medical models to bring all this wisdom together. We need a model with one foot in both worlds. I feel my sculptures do this.

PS. Keep in mind that anytime we combine oral tradition folk wisdom (that didn’t have ultrasounds to ‘prove it’), with modern scientific research, we have to be willing to make room for more than one paradigm to understand the value of what is before us.  Let’s not put the Western Medical Model and Folk Healing Traditions in competition with each other. Please stop. They each have a different angle of wisdom that creates circumstances for wellbeing. The future of health is integration. That means mutual curiosity and respect are required when people in different paradigms look at each other’s information.

– What makes a uterus model ‘accurate’ ?

Such a good question! 

I’ve learned that every woman’s womb is unique: it’s variable in size, shape and weight based on several factors:

– age

– stage in womb life (pre-pubescent? ovulating? menstruating? pregnant? postpartum? menopausal?)

– health history (fibroids, diseases such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, as well as inflammation, etc. or not?)

– whether influenced by birth control or hormone replacement therapy or not (birth control pills have been shown to shrink womb tissues, while menopausal HRT has been shown to potentially proliferate them)

– whether or not (and how many) children she has carried (this impacts the overall size, shape of a fundus, and it’s OS opening)

– is it a ‘normal’ shaped fundus or bicornate? two cervixes or one? (these are variations that happen)

– and what about genetic variation? External labia are diversely shaped and so are lengths of vaginas. In male genitalia, there’s evidence of subtle racial shape variances and lengths.

In summary, this is an impossible amount of variation to boil down into one image that represents all wombs everywhere, into a ‘standard’ for a model. 

But wait, isn’t that what we expect in a model? 

Case in point, take a cadaver-type model. Is that more accurate?  Well, I guess it depends on if you know the facts about that particular womb, as referenced above! Then maybe we can say, yes, this is an accurate depiction of the womb for a woman that has ‘x’ health history and ‘x’ age and ‘x’ stage in reproductive life…

Do you see the conundrum? 

We are so unique.  Each woman is unique! 

So, how do we generalize?  What do we base a model off of when the organ is so variable from so many angles?  As an artist, this poses a lot to consider.

My solution to this problem (and it is by no means the only one or best one) is to create an art sculpture that I hope teaches the folk healing concepts I wanted to illustrate, but also gives an approximate medical reference point.

As a result these models are an ‘archetype’ sculpture of the womb, for a stage of womb development showing a particular function of the womb, knowing with humility that each woman will have her own story and history to project onto it and connect.

That’s important, because we can heal what we can connect with.

side view of pelvic organs
Copyright 2006 Megan Assaf

– What is the data you base your womb sculptures on?

Please see my Data References.

The ‘ovulating’ sculpture has size, weight, and shape dimensions which are easily found in a variety of sources including the afore mentioned medical texts, medical illustrations from Netters, Clemente, and Grey as well as cadaver observation.

Also, it has been my experience that this data has ‘felt’ consistent with the midcycling wombs I’ve palpated through the belly, in over a decade of doing maya abdominal massage for women.

The menstruating sculpture weight is based on numbers I learned in maya abdominal massage training (which taught Central American folk traditions of womb care combined with science from the West).

From this I learned that wombs become heavier during the month, peaking before and on the first day of an actual menses. This is why some cultures have traditions around this time of the month to protect the uterus… such as not lifting heaving things, or walking barefoot/ sitting on cold surfaces to reduce risk of having the womb drop low, which can harm fertility, cause pain in sex, and give menstrual cramps as well as bladder leakage and constipation! This information has been validated in the many women I’ve served over the years, hearing their stories and listening to the way they describe their wombs on their menses.

Right and left leaning examples of womb displacement
Copyright 2006 Megan Assaf

The mensing womb size comes from three sources: first, traditional folk healing information on a womb being enlarged/engorged just before and during menses; second, clinical palpation of living wombs right before onset/first day of menses, which in my experience is consistent with the folk healing information… (I observe it palpates quite obviously larger and spongier when it’s actually mensing and not having a ‘breakthrough bleed’ from birth control pills… and many times typically feels close to the actual size of this model, give or take a little, depending on the woman’s personal history); and third, it’s based on the size to weight ratio of the ‘ovulating’ clay sculpture for which we have much technical science data. Given these three factors, the ‘mensing’ sculpture size felt adequate to me to demonstrate the folk wisdom concept of weight changes that these sculptures were intended to teach.

The mensing womb shape is based on medical illustrations, cadaver study, and palpation as well.  

All black and white images and text on this page is copyright 2019 Megan Assaf.
Do not reproduce without permission.

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