Hysterectomy, Purpose, Types, Risks and Recovery
Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes your uterus through an incision in your lower abdomen. Your uterus — or womb — is where a baby grows if you're pregnant.
A partial hysterectomy removes just the uterus, leaving the cervix intact. A total hysterectomy removes the uterus and the cervix. Sometimes a hysterectomy includes the removal of one or both ovaries and fallopian tubes, a procedure called a total hysterectomy.
If you have not already gone through menopause, you'll no longer have periods, regardless of your age.
Many women have a hysterectomy. It's more common for women aged 40 to 50.
Purpose of Hysterectomy
Hysterectomy is carried out to treat health problems that affect the female reproductive system. Hysterectomy may be done for different reasons, including:
- Uterine fibroids that cause pain, bleeding, or other problems
- Uterine prolapse, which is a sliding of the uterus from its normal position into the vaginal canal
- Cancer of the uterus, cervix, or ovaries
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Adenomyosis, or a thickening of the uterus
Hysterectomy for noncancerous reasons is usually considered only after all other treatment approaches have been tried without success. Hysterectomy is a major operation with a long recovery time and is only considered after less invasive treatments have been tried.
If you have a hysterectomy, as well as having your womb removed, you may have to decide whether to also have your cervix or ovaries removed.
Your decision will usually be based on your personal feelings, medical history, and any recommendations your doctor may have. Talk with your doctor or health care provider to make sure you fully understand the risks and benefits of the procedure or try using video consultation from leading international medical experts from UK, USA, and Europe. Docspert Health enables you to have an online video consultation with an international expert to discuss your condition and their medical advice, with the option of having a medical interpreter. You can book a video consultation here
You can also receive a detailed medical report about your condition with an accurate diagnosis, the best treatment plan, and answers to your questions. Our medical team helps you understand the expert's report. Docspert Health enables you to travel abroad to consult the expert or to receive your treatment or operation
Types of Hysterectomy
Your healthcare provider will discuss which type of hysterectomy is needed depending on your condition. This will determine if your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries need to be removed.
There are 3 ways to carry out a hysterectomy:
- Total hysterectomy: Removing the uterus and cervix, but leaving the ovaries.
- Supracervical hysterectomy: Removing just the upper part of the uterus while leaving the cervix.
- Total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Removing the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingectomy), and ovaries (oophorectomy). If you haven't experienced menopause, removing the ovaries will start menopausal symptoms.
- Radical hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: The removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, the upper portion of the vagina, and some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. This type of hysterectomy is performed when cancer is involved.
- laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery) – where the womb is removed through several small cuts in the abdomen
- vaginal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the top of the vagina
- abdominal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the lower abdomen
Risks of Hysterectomy
Most people who get a hysterectomy have no serious problems or complications from the hysterectomy surgery. Still, a hysterectomy is major surgery and is not without risks. Those complications include:
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal prolapse (part of the vagina coming out of the body)
- Vaginal fistula formation (an abnormal connection that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum)
- Chronic pain
- Other risks from hysterectomy include wound infections, blood clots, hemorrhage, and injury to surrounding organs, although these are uncommon after hysterectomy.
Recovery After Hysterectomy
A hysterectomy is a major operation. You can be in hospital for up to 5 days after a hysterectomy, and it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to fully recover from a hysterectomy. Recovery times can also vary depending on the type of hysterectomy.
Vaginal hysterectomy and laparoscopic hysterectomy recovery take about two to four weeks. It may take up to six weeks to recover from an abdominal hysterectomy. Talk to your healthcare provider before going home to make sure you know how to best take care of yourself after a hysterectomy.
Rest as much as possible during this time and do not lift anything heavy, such as bags of shopping. You need time for your abdominal muscles and tissues to heal after a hysterectomy.
After a hysterectomy, if the ovaries were also removed, you'll be in menopause. If the ovaries were not removed during hysterectomy, you may enter menopause at an earlier age than you would have otherwise.
Most people are told to abstain from sex and avoid lifting heavy objects for six weeks after a hysterectomy.
After a hysterectomy, most people say they feel the operation succeeded at improving or curing their main problem (for example, pain or heavy periods).
You can experience light vaginal bleeding for one to six weeks after hysterectomy. Use only a light pantiliner or sanitary pad to catch the discharge.
Do not lift heavy objects (over 10 pounds) for at least four to six weeks after hysterectomy.
Do not put anything into the vagina for four to six weeks after a hysterectomy, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
Do not have sex for six weeks after hysterectomy.
You may take a shower. Wash the hysterectomy incision with soap and water (the stitches do not have to be removed, as they will dissolve in about six weeks). A bandage over the hysterectomy incision is not necessary. If surgical strips were used, they should fall off on their own within a week after hysterectomy. If staples were used, they will need to be removed by your healthcare provider.
You can drive about two weeks after abdominal hysterectomy surgery or when you are no longer taking narcotics for pain. If you had a vaginal hysterectomy or laparoscopic hysterectomy, you might begin driving within a few days after the hysterectomy.
Resume your exercise routine within four to six weeks after the hysterectomy, depending on how you feel.
You can usually go back to work in three to six weeks after a hysterectomy, depending on what kind of work you do.
After a hysterectomy, your periods will stop. Occasionally, you may feel bloated and have symptoms similar to when you were menstruating. It is normal to have light vaginal bleeding or a dark brown discharge for about four to six weeks after hysterectomy.
You may feel discomfort at the hysterectomy incision site for about four weeks after the hysterectomy, and any redness, bruising or swelling will disappear in four to six weeks after the hysterectomy. Feeling burning or itching around the hysterectomy incision is normal. You may also experience a numb feeling around the hysterectomy incision and down your leg. This is normal and, if present, usually lasts about two months after hysterectomy. It's normal to have scarring, both internally and externally. A laparoscopic hysterectomy will cause smaller, less visible scars as opposed to an abdominal hysterectomy.
If the ovaries remain, you should not experience hormone-related effects after hysterectomy. If the ovaries were removed during a hysterectomy with the uterus before menopause, you may experience the symptoms that often occur with menopause, such as hot flashes. Your healthcare provider may prescribe hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms after a hysterectomy.
It's very normal to experience bloating or feeling gassy after a hysterectomy. It can take several weeks for the puffiness and swelling in your belly to go down. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to reduce your discomfort. Performing certain exercises, applying a warm compress, or changing up your diet may help you.
Your sexual function is usually not affected by a hysterectomy. If the ovaries were removed with the uterus, this could start symptoms of menopause. Symptoms such as low sex drive and vaginal dryness may occur. Using a water-based lubricant can help with dryness after a hysterectomy. a woman can still have an orgasm and ejaculate after a hysterectomy. This is because the external organs of the vagina and the pelvic nerves that supply the lower genital tract are still intact after a simple hysterectomy.
Emotional reactions to a hysterectomy vary and can depend on how well you were prepared for the hysterectomy, the reason for having a hysterectomy, and whether the problem has been treated by hysterectomy.
Some women may feel a sense of loss, but these emotional reactions are usually temporary. Other women may find that a hysterectomy improves their health and well-being and may even be a life-saving operation. Please discuss your emotional concerns with your healthcare provider. Docspert Health enables you to have an online video consultation with an international expert to discuss your condition and their medical advice, with the option of having a medical interpreter. You can book a video consultation here
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