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.
Types of hysterectomy
Hysterectomy surgery may be:
- abdominal — your uterus is removed through a cut in your lower abdomen
- vaginal — your uterus is removed through your vagina
- laparoscopic — instruments are passed through small incisions in and near your belly button
You should discuss with your doctor the best type for you.
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.
Why should I have a hysterectomy?
Your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy if you have:
- cancer of the uterus, cervix, endometrium or ovaries
- non-cancerous tumors in your uterus
- endometriosis - when the lining of your uterus grows outside the uterus
- incontinence, pelvic pressure or difficulty with bowel movements
- irregular, heavy or very long periods
- chronic pelvic pain (after other possible causes have been ruled out)
Unless you have cancer, your doctor will probably recommend other treatments, such as medicines or other surgical procedures first.
Depending on your medical problem, your doctor may recommend you also have your cervix, ovaries or fallopian tubes removed.
Recovering from a hysterectomy
A hysterectomy has 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, and perhaps up to 7 days.
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 at least a few weeks. You shouldn’t drive a car for about 3 weeks and you shouldn’t have sex for 6 weeks after a hysterectomy. Standing for long periods can also be tiring.
You should contact your doctor if pain worsens or if you develop nausea or vomiting, or bleeding that's heavier than a menstrual period.
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Last reviewed: December 2018