If you’re scratching your head a little, don’t feel bad, 44% of American adults incorrectly understand this surgical procedure, or they have no idea what one is. This shows that despite how common this surgery is—one in three women have one performed by age 60—its awareness is low. So to help break down misunderstandings and build a better appreciation, we’re answering some basic questions about hysterectomies.
First of all, what is a hysterectomy?
Simply put, a hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus, but there’s more to it than that. There are more than one type of hysterectomy depending on what is happening in the body. Some patients have their entire uterus and cervix removed, while others only have part of their uterus taken out and the cervix is left intact. Here are the three different types of hysterectomies:
- Supracervial or subtotal hysterectomy: only the upper portion of the uterus is removed.
- Total hysterectomy: the entire uterus is removed along with the cervix.
- Radical hysterectomy: the uterus, side tissue of the uterus, cervix, and upper portion of the vagina are removed. This type of hysterectomy is usually only done when cancer is present.
Every woman is different, therefore what type of hysterectomy someone may have is a decision that is made by medical professionals, and its important for patients to discuss their options in-depth with doctors.
Are hysterectomies safe?
As with any surgical procedure, complications, infection, and risks, such as fever, heavy bleeding, blood clots, and breathing or heart problems related to anesthesia can occur. However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, hysterectomies are considered safe.
What is the recovery period like?
Most patients remain in the hospital for 24 hours after surgery, or are released the same day and advised to rest their abdominal and pelvic area as much as possible. This means refraining from heavy lifting, bending over, intercourse, and exercise until healed. The majority of women find they can get back to their regular routines after six weeks post surgery. Additionally, it’s common for patients to refrain from driving for two weeks. It is advised to begin taking short, slow walks a couple weeks after surgery to help with healing.
However, all women are different. Some may experience more painful or uncomfortable recoveries and some may be able to bounce back and feel like themselves much quicker. It all depends on age and the health of the patient, so it’s important for patients to discuss recovery expectations with their doctor.
Can women who’ve had a hysterectomy have children?
No. When a woman’s uterus is removed, she can no longer carry a baby and pregnancy is not possible. Very, VERY rarely does something called an ectopic pregnancy occur. This is caused by an egg attaching to the abdominal wall, or another organ nearby like the bladder or an ovary, where it can become fertilized. This phenomena does not result in a live birth and can be dangerous to the woman, but again, is incredibly unlikely.
Do hysterectomies impact intimacy?
No. Post-surgery, there should be no physical problems prohibiting you from becoming intimate with your partner. However, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s aftercare directions and allow time for proper healing.
What are some reasons hysterectomies are performed?
Some of the most common reasons doctors suggest having a hysterectomy include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Cancer of the uterus, cervix, or ovaries
There is a lot of information out there regarding hysterectomies, and there is also a lot of misinformation. Beyond understanding some of the basics, it’s important to always discuss any questions, concerns, and actions with a trusted physician—and it never hurts to get a second opinion.