A hysterectomy is major surgery to remove your uterus, or womb. In a total hysterectomy, the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus near the vagina, is also removed.
What is a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is major surgery to remove the uterus, or womb.
Your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy if you have:
- cancer of the uterus, cervix, tubes or an ovary
- heavy menstrual bleeding that hasn’t improved with other treatments
- an enlarged uterus that is pressing on other organs
- fibroids (non-cancerous tumours) in the uterus
- prolapsed uterus
- severe chronic pelvic pain
- endometriosis — when the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- adenomyosis (when the cells that normally line the uterus also grow in the layer of muscle in the wall of the uterus)
Unless you have cancer, your doctor will probably recommend other treatments first, such as medicines or other surgical procedures.
You can't become pregnant after you've had a hysterectomy, so you have to be completely sure that you'll never want to become pregnant before you have one.
Types of hysterectomy
There are different types of hysterectomy. Sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes might also be removed. In a total hysterectomy, the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus near the vagina, is also removed.
Hysterectomy surgery may be:
- abdominal — the uterus is removed through a cut in the lower abdomen
- vaginal — the uterus is removed through the vagina
- laparoscopic — instruments are passed through small incisions in and near the belly button
- laparoscopic in combination with vaginal surgery
You should discuss with your doctor the best type for you.
Recovering from a hysterectomy
A hysterectomy is a common and safe procedure. However, like any surgery, there are risks such as heavy bleeding and infection that you should discuss with your doctor. You may experience effects from the anaesthetic.
You'll be in hospital for at least a day or 2.
There may be vaginal bleeding and discharge for up to a few weeks after surgery.
Some women find a hysterectomy very difficult emotionally, worrying that they have lost something important about being a woman. Others find they feel much better after the operation, especially if symptoms like heavy bleeding have gone.
You won't be able to lift heavy objects or do anything strenuous for 4 to 6 weeks. You may be off work for 2 to 6 weeks.
You should contact your doctor if pain worsens or if you develop:
- redness, pain, swelling of the wound
- bad smelling discharge
- heavy bleeding
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Last reviewed: December 2020