Though some of the iconic Internet brands of the 1990s (Prodigy and Juno, anyone?) have gone the way of Atari, the 15-year-old online community known as HysterSisters is celebrating 15 successful years on the “World Wide Web,” as its membership and traffic grows with the next generation of women.
“I created a HysterSisters forum in 1998 to find support from other women after my own hysterectomy,” says Kathy Kelley, a former high school art teacher who runs the community full-time. “When we started leaving a trail of questions and answers about hysterectomy, HysterSisters was born. I’m grateful to the thousands of women who helped make it a useful resource for others.”
At 15 years old, HysterSisters.com is the Internet’s number one destination for woman-to-woman support for gynecological health questions. Its creator, Kathy Kelley, continues to adapt the site to meet the needs of Gen X and Gen Y. As Millenials and X’ers go through their child-bearing and peri-menopausal years, they represent a generation of women who rely on their mobile phones and tablets for all areas of their lives. From its early days in 1998 as an online forum, HysterSisters is now a community of more than 300,000 registered members and offers a mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android.
While the popularity of HysterSisters has grown since 1998, the number of hysterectomies among American women is declining, according to new research in the August 2013 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers report that the number of hysterectomies performed annually peaked in 2002 and declined annually from 2002-2010. As a result, 36 percent fewer hysterectomies were performed in 2010 compared with 2002.
Kelley, a proponent of second opinions, hysterectomy alternatives and minimally invasive procedures, says that reducing the number of hysterectomies is a good trend. A few years ago, she launched a campaign called “Give Me a Second,” aimed at encouraging women to get opinions from more than one doctor before scheduling a hysterectomy.
“If hysterectomy rates are declining because more women are exploring alternatives, then I’m happy because they’re making decisions that feel right for them,” Kelley says.
HysterSisters creates a community for thousands of women each day, connecting them as they learn about diagnoses, consider surgery, explore alternative treatments, or learn about hormone replacement therapy. With almost 500,000 subject threads on more than 35 message boards, HysterSisters is a thriving community that doctors say help their patients become better educated about their OB/GYN health decisions.
“I encourage our patients to visit HysterSisters when they leave the doctor’s office,” says Dr. Lori Warren, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Louisville, Ky., and founder of Pass The Pearls, which promotes doctor training in minimally-invasive surgical techniques. “HysterSisters has proven to be a reliable source of patient support and information, and women who use it come back with better questions and are more comfortable with their decisions.”