A Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the womb (uterus). After the operation you will no longer be able to get pregnant.
If you haven’t already gone through the menopause, you will also no longer have periods, regardless of your age. The menopause is when a woman’s monthly periods stop, usually at around the age of 52. About 60,000 hysterectomies are carried out in the UK each year, and up to 20% of women will have the operation. It is more common for women between the ages of 40 and 50 to have a hysterectomy.
Hysterectomies are carried out to treat conditions that affect the female reproductive system, including:
- heavy periods (menorrhagia)
- long-term pelvic pain
- non-cancerous tumours (fibroids)
- ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer or cancer of the fallopian tubes
A Hysterectomy is a major operation with a long recovery time and is only considered after alternative, less invasive treatments have been tried. For most of the conditions mentioned above (apart from cancer), hysterectomy is usually considered a last resort after other treatments have failed. The decision to have a hysterectomy should be shared between you, (your partner) and your doctor.
Things to consider
If you have a hysterectomy, as well as having your womb removed you may have to decide whether to also have your cervix or ovaries removed (see below). Your decision will usually be based on your personal feelings, medical history and any recommendations your doctor may have. You should be aware of the different types of hysterectomy and their implications.
Types of Hysterectomy
There are a various types of hysterectomy. The type you have depends on why you need the operation and how much of your womb and surrounding reproductive system can safely be left in place.
The main types of hysterectomy are:
- total hysterectomy: the womb and cervix (neck of the womb) are removed; this is the most commonly performed operation
- subtotal hysterectomy: the main body of the womb is removed leaving the cervix in place
- total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingectomy) and the ovaries (oophorectomy) are removed
- radical hysterectomy: the womb and surrounding tissues are removed, including the fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands and fatty tissue
There are three ways to carry out a hysterectomy:
- vaginal hysterectomy: where the womb is removed through a cut in the top of the vagina
- abdominal hysterectomy: where the womb is removed through a cut in the lower abdomen
- laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery): where the womb is removed through several small cuts in the abdomen
Recovering from a Hysterectomy
A hysterectomy is a major operation. You can be in hospital for up to five days following surgery and it takes about six to eight weeks to fully recover.
Rest as much as possible during this time and don’t lift anything heavy, such as bags of shopping. You need time for your abdominal muscles and tissues to heal.
If your ovaries are removed during a hysterectomy, you will go through the menopause immediately after the operation, regardless of your age. This is known as a surgical menopause.
If one or both of your ovaries are left intact, there’s a chance you will experience the menopause within five years of having your operation.
If you experience a surgical menopause after having a hysterectomy, you should be offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT).