Hysterectomy is a major surgery that ends up impacting a woman’s life considerably.
Here is what happens to your body soon after you have a hysterectomy:
- Bladder and bowel problems: You may have urinary tract infections (feel burning or difficulty in passing urine) or constipation. To avoid these problems, it is necessary to drink lots of fluids and have sufficient fibrous items in your diet.
- Vaginal bleeding: There will be some vaginal bleeding after a hysterectomy that may stay up to six weeks. The amount of bleeding is less than during periods. However, if you find blood clots, experience heavy bleeding, or smell a strong odor, please contact your doctor to rule out any complications.
Long-term consequences of a hysterectomy include:
- Menopause: Menopause is a major event in your life when you can no longer get periods. If the ovary is also removed, other signs and symptoms of menopause also turn up, some of which include:
- Hot flushes (particularly during the night)
- Vaginal dryness, itching
- Vaginal discomfort, pain during sex
- Mood swings
- Change in sexual feelings: Some women feel an increase in their sexual feelings due to lack of fear of pregnancy, whereas some may lose interest in sex due to painful sex (as a result of the loss of vaginal laxity or vaginal dryness).
- Increased risk for other conditions: With the removal of ovaries, your chances of falling prey to osteoporosis (bone loss), bladder control, and heart diseases increase.
- Feeling that something is lost: You may experience depressive feelings because of the thoughts of losing your feminism.
How to deal with changes after a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy that also involves the removal of ovaries results in the permanent cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle. This condition is known as surgical menopause or surgery-induced menopause. Hormonal changes also take place during menopause for which the doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Menopause results in a decrease in the estrogen hormone that gives rise to signs and symptoms of menopause. HRT aims at making up for the loss of estrogen by replacing it with synthetic estrogen.
If you experience vaginal dryness and pain during sex, you can use a vaginal lubricant just before performing the carnal act.
You may feel depressed or stressed due to the loss of one or more of your reproductive organs. You can relax and destress yourself by indulging in massage therapy, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
Do you need cervical screening after a hysterectomy?
You will not need cervical screening (a pap smear) if both your uterus and cervix are removed. If the cervix is left behind, the PAP smear may be advised.
Sometimes, even after a total hysterectomy, especially if done for a cancerous condition, a PAP smear may be recommended to detect any cancerous changes in the surrounding area.
Is there any alternative to a hysterectomy?
Hysterectomy remains the last option after all alternatives to treat problems such as heavy bleeding have failed.
Before going for a hysterectomy, here is what the doctor will generally suggest:
- Wait-and-watch approach: This is usually adopted for uterine fibroids to observe whether they are growing or not and sometimes to see if they shrink by themselves after menopause.
- Exercises: For uterine prolapse, pelvic muscle–strengthening exercises such as Kegel exercises are recommended.
- Medicines: Medicines are the first line of treatment when it comes to issues such as endometriosis, pelvic pain, and excessive or irregular vaginal bleeding.
- Vaginal pessary: This is a rubbery or plastic object similar to a diaphragm used for treating uterine prolapse.
- Surgeries: Certain surgeries treat the underlying problem but are minor to a hysterectomy. These are as follows:
- Surgery to treat endometriosis
- Dilation and curettage (D&C) (removing the lining of the uterus that is shed during every monthly period)
- Endometrial ablation (destroying the lining of the uterus permanently by freezing or heating)
- Myomectomy (surgery to remove uterine fibroids without removing the uterus)
- Myolysis (surgery to shrink fibroids without removing the uterus)
- Uterine artery embolization (UAE) (treatment to shrink fibroids without surgery)
- Magnetic resonance (MR)-guided focused ultrasound (treatment to shrink fibroids without surgery)
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