Just like any surgery, a hysterectomy is never anything that should be considered lightly. A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus (womb). Depending on the circumstances, doctors may remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes, too. It is a surgery that is irreversible and results in the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle as well as her ability to conceive a child.
In urgent situations, like when a woman has cancer of the uterus or ovaries, or the uterus is heavily bleeding and can’t be stopped, a hysterectomy is necessary to save the woman’s life. In most cases though, a hysterectomy is an elective surgery that is done to actually improve a woman’s life to relieve pain, discomfort or heavy bleeding. A doctor may recommend a hysterectomy to alleviate pain and discomfort from fibroid tumors, abnormal uterine bleeding, endometriosis, chronic pelvic conditions, uterine prolapse, or blockage in the bladder or intestines by the uterus.
Some of these conditions may be treated in other ways before resorting to a hysterectomy. For example, endometriosis may be treated with hormone therapy. Fibroids may be treated with another type of surgery that does not involve removing the uterus. Unfortunately, for treating uterine or cervical cancer, a hysterectomy may be the only choice.
There are different ways a hysterectomy can be performed. The doctor may go through the abdomen or vagina to get to the uterus. The procedure can be done as a laparoscopic, robotic-assisted, vaginal, or open surgery. How the hysterectomy is performed will be based on the specific reason for the procedure.
Consider the emotional, as well as the physical effects
As part of your consideration to have a hysterectomy it is best to talk to your doctor or counselor about any concerns or hesitations you have. Once you’ve had a hysterectomy, you’ll stop having menstrual periods and you’ll be unable to have children. The idea of not being able to bear children or no longer have a period can have a psychological impact, causing depression or decrease the desire to have sex. These issues should be discussed with your partner as well.
Recovery varies from woman to woman. You will most likely experience some pain for the first few days after the surgery. There may be bleeding and some discharge from the vagina for up to several weeks. Use sanitary pads (not tampons) for the bleeding. Other post-surgery effects you may experience include constipation and problems urinating.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions to help you recover as best as possible. Refrain from using tampons, having sex or douching the first six weeks after the surgery, and don’t lift anything heavy. If you’re unsure about what you can or cannot do, just call your doctor’s office. After you recover, make sure to continue your gynecological care.