What is a Hysterectomy?
After cesarean section birth surgery, hysterectomies are the second-most common surgeries performed on women.
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure in which a woman's uterus is partially or entirely removed. During the procedure, the fallopian tubes and ovaries may also be removed. The result of having a hysterectomy is that a woman no longer menstruates and she is no longer able to become pregnant. This is often dependent on why the hysterectomy is performed and at what age it is performed.
Types of Hysterectomies:
There are three main types of hysterectomies performed:
- Partial hysterectomies are when the upper part of the uterus is removed, but the cervix is left behind.
- Total hysterectomies remove the entire uterus and the cervix.
- Radical hysterectomies are the removal of the entire uterus, tissue around the cervix, and the upper part of the vagina. Usually this is done when cancer has been discovered.
Ways Hysterectomies Can Be Performed:
The hysterectomy can also be performed in a number of different manners:
- Abdominal hysterectomies are performed through an incision in the lower section of the stomach.
- Vaginal hysterectomies are performed through an incision in the vagina.
- Laparoscopic hysterectomies are conducted with several small incisions in the stomach area, in which the tissue is cut in to smaller pieces and removed.
Causes for Hysterectomies:
Hysterectomies are performed for several health-related reasons. Cancer is a common reason for hysterectomies, particularly when present in the uterus, ovaries, cervix, or endometrium. While other options are available, this is often the most thorough treatment of the cancer.
Fibroids are muscular benign tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus, which often shrink after menopause. The fibroids can cause heavy bleeding or increased pain. While medications are available to shrink or treat the tumors, they often reoccur.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrius, the tissue that lines the uterus, develops outside the uterus. It often grows on and interferes with the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic and abdominal areas. This can lead to severe pain.
A prolapsed uterus is when the uterus becomes displaced and sinks lower in to the vaginal area, causing urinary and bowel problems and pressure.
Adenomyosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows inside the walls, causing pain.
Pelvic pain can be caused for a variety of reasons, and a hysterectomy is utilized as a last resort.
A hysterectomy may cause other health-related issues. For example, if a woman has a hysterectomy before menopause and keeps her ovaries, she may enter menopause at an earlier age. If the ovaries are removed, menopause starts immediately.
Recovery from Hysterectomy:
Recovery from any surgery can be difficult, and recovering from a hysterectomy is no different.
Abdominal surgery often requires four to six weeks of recovery.
Vaginal or laparoscopic surgery often takes three to four weeks of recovery. As with any surgery, avoid heavy lifting after surgery.
It is important to continue to have regular pap smears and gynocological care after a hysterectomy. This is especially true if a partial hysterectomy was performed, leaving the cervix intact. Pap smears screen for cervical cancer, among other things.
Complications of Hysterectomies:
Having a hysterectomy comes with additional side effect risks. However, the majority of women on whom the procedure is performed report that the surgery is successful and that their symptoms or conditions were cured or significantly improved.
For example, the following are possible complications:
- Urinary incontinence
- Chronic Pain
- Another serious issue is prolapse, or falling, of the pelvic floor. This can lead to vaginal prolapse, in which the top of the vagina may fall toward the vaginal opening. This can lead to herniated bowels and other issues. A prolapsed bladder is when the front of the vaginal wall collapses, placing stress on the bladder or a prolapsed bladder. This can lead to urinary incontinence. Finally a prolapsed rectum occurs when the back wall of the vagina weakens and pushes against the rectal wall, causing a bulge noticed during bowel movements.
Related Pages on Band Back Together:
Women's Health.Gov - hysterectomy fact sheet put out by the US government.
HysterSisters - woman-to-woman support site for hysterectomy information, support and recovery.
Hysterectomy Alternatives and Aftereffects Foundation (HERS)- non-profit international women's health education organization. HERS provides information about alternatives to hysterectomy and the aftereffects of the surgery.
Our Bodies, Ourselves - a nonprofit, public interest women’s health education, advocacy, and consulting organization.