Hysterectomy is surgical removal of the uterus and sometimes the cervix and supporting tissues. It is the most common non-pregnancy-related major surgery performed on women in the United States, with one in three women having a hysterectomy by age 60. If you have not reached menopause, a hysterectomy will stop your monthly bleeding (periods). You also will not be able to get pregnant. If the ovaries are removed in a woman before she reaches menopause, the loss of female hormones will cause her to suddenly enter menopause (surgical menopause).
Hysterectomies are most often done for the following reasons:
Other reasons why hysterectomies are done include chronic pelvic pain, heavy bleeding and chronic pelvic inflammatory disease.
Talk to your doctor. If you have a condition that is not cancer, such as fibroids, endometriosis or uterine prolapse, there are other treatments that can be tried first. In most cases, a hysterectomy need not be done immediately. There is usually time for you to get more information, look into possible alternatives or seek a second opinion. In cases of serious disease, such as cancer, a hysterectomy may not be optional and may be a life-saving choice. Before you decide what to do, it is important you understand your condition and your options for dealing with it. If you are suffering from continuing severe problems with pelvic pain and abnormal uterine bleeding and other treatments have not helped, a hysterectomy may provide relief. Studies have shown that a hysterectomy often improves sexual functioning and quality of life for women suffering from these problems.
Hysterectomies are performed though a cut in the abdomen or the vagina. Sometimes an instrument called a laparoscope is used to help see inside the abdomen during vaginal hysterectomy. The type of surgery that is done depends on the reason for the surgery.
The risks associated with hysterectomy are among the lowest for any major surgery. However, as with any major surgery, problems can occur, including:
The length of your hospital stay and recovery will depend on the type of hysterectomy you had – abdominal, vaginal or laparoscopic. Most women stay in the hospital for one to two days, though some may stay up to four days. It takes longer to recover from an abdominal hysterectomy, with complete recovery usually taking four to eight weeks. Most women can return to normal activity in one to two weeks following a vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy.
If you have had a total hysterectomy in which the cervix was removed along with the uterus, you will not usually require Pap testing. An exception is if your hysterectomy was done because of cervical cancer or its precursors. Ask your health care provider if you need to have periodic Pap tests. It is important for all women who have had a hysterectomy to have regular gynecologic exams as part of their health care.
The National Women’s Health Information Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services