It’s understandable if you’ve been worrying yourself with “what ifs” when envisioning life after a hysterectomy. For the majority of women who have undergone a hysterectomy, the procedure means relief from their symptoms of pain and abnormal bleeding, post-hysterectomy. For some, however, the process can be challenging – both psychologically and physically. Not knowing what to expect after something this important can also be a source of great stress. So if you’ve just had a hysterectomy or are going to have one soon, this page will help you with your expectations and, hopefully, help you deal with any problems you might face.
What to Expect After a Hysterectomy
The duration of your hospital stay will depend upon whether your hysterectomy is conducted through open surgery (abdominal hysterectomy) or keyhole surgery (laparoscopic hysterectomy). Women who undergo an abdominal hysterectomy can expect recovery to take up to six weeks. Women who undergo a laparoscopic hysterectomy may be allowed to leave the next day and the laparoscopic hysterectomy recovery time can take as little as one to two weeks. Dr G always prefers laparoscopic hysterectomy and avoids open surgery as much as possible.
You will be asked to take several precautions after your hysterectomy surgery. These include (but are not necessarily limited to) abstaining from sexual intercourse, certain physical activities, heavy lifting, and using tampons. The duration for which you need to observe these precautions varies with the type of surgery performed and your individual case. Dr G will discuss these with you in detail.
Physical Changes After Hysterectomy
Whether the symptom treated was uncontrolled bleeding, pelvic pain, or abnormal bloating, your hysterectomy should be making your life a lot easier. However, the removal of the uterus and/or ovaries may have consequences for some women. These include:
- Early menopause: Women who have undergone a hysterectomy may enter menopause earlier than they normally would have. Due to the hormonal changes it creates, menopause can bring symptoms of its own – primarily mood swings and hot flashes.
- Changes to sex drive: Several women worry that having a hysterectomy will dampen their libido. Studies, however, suggest that these fears are needless. While some women do have vaginal dryness that can affect them adversely, most women report no changes at all. In several cases, women have even gone on to report increased enjoyment of sex after their hysterectomy has been performed.
- Pelvic floor dysfunction: A few women can develop pelvic weakness post-hysterectomy. This can lead to bowel and bladder problems (like urinary incontinence). A small percentage of women have been known to develop a pelvic organ prolapse as a result of their hysterectomy surgery — a condition characterised by the dropping of pelvic organs into the vaginal canal. This is normally associated with conventional open surgery or vaginal hysterectomy. However, laparoscopic hysterectomy has a much lesser risk of this complication as it carries less damage to the surrounding structures (muscles and ligaments).
- Osteoporosis: The fall in estrogen levels that results from the removal of ovaries (not the uterus) has been shown to increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures in some women.
Talk to Dr G if you’re worried about whether you’re at risk of any of these problems. Many of these conditions are influenced by factors like your current health status, age, weight, lifestyle, and genetic makeup. There are also treatments available to help you cope with the physical changes listed above.
Psychological Effects of Hysterectomy
A hysterectomy can also affect you emotionally. While some women may experience relief and happiness to be spared the problems they were being treated for, others can enter a state of depression due to a variety of reasons. These reasons include the inability to have children (for premenopausal women), the loss of an important reproductive organ, a fear of decreased femininity, and hormonal imbalances. If you feel depressed, fearful, or anxious, don’t be afraid to seek counselling or take medications that Dr G may prescribe to you.
Coping with Problems
There are several ways in which you can cope with these physical and psychological changes. These include:
- Hormone replacement therapy to combat the symptoms of hormonal imbalances
- Vaginal suppositories and lubricants to ease discomfort during intercourse
- Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
- Corrective surgery to deal with vaginal prolapse and urinary incontinence
- Counselling and anti-depressants to treat adverse psychological reactions
Dr G can assist with all your post hysterectomy concerns.