The Risks and Benefits of an Elective Hysterectomy

Learn About All of the Types of Hysterectomy

Light micrograph showing cervical cancer
Callista Images/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

Having a hysterectomy is the most common major surgery for women and frequently it is considered an elective procedure. To make an informed choice, discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider, including how a hysterectomy could affect your sex life and the increased risk of vaginal cancer.

Modern surgery techniques, such as removing your uterus laparoscopically or through your vagina, are minimally invasive and leave little to no scarring.

For many women, hysterectomy provides an enhanced sense of well-being and a chance to start a new life, free of the pain and symptoms which caused them to choose surgery. Others don't get the relief expected and/or develop new health or sexual issues.

Hysterectomy as Elective Surgery

A hysterectomy is frequently one option on a list of several treatment choices from your healthcare provider. These health conditions may include:

If Your Life Depends on It

In some cases, your life depends on you having a hysterectomy. Conditions that may call for hysterectomy include:

    Types of Hysterectomy

    The surgeon may need to remove more than just your uterus to adequately address your health condition. There are four types of hysterectomy and which one you'll have depends on if there are additional parts of your reproductive system that need to be removed.

    Total Hysterectomy

    A total hysterectomy is one which involves removal of the cervix, uterus, and the fallopian tubes.

    Although the ovaries remain intact, many women show signs of menopause soon after.

    Hysterectomy with Bilateral Oophorectomy

    Hysterectomy with bilateral oophorectomy involves the removal of both ovaries along with your uterus. Conditions that may require this type include ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, and tumors or cysts on the ovaries. Surgical menopause begins immediately after surgery, so treatment to reduce some of the symptoms starts while you're recovering in the hospital.

    Radical Hysterectomy

    A radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, the top part of the vagina, and most of the tissue surrounding the cervix in the pelvic cavity. The surgeon may also remove your pelvic lymph nodes in cases of cervical or endometrial cancer.

    Supracervical Hysterectomy

    Women at low risk for developing cervical cancer may have a supracervical hysterectomy, where the surgeon removes your uterus but leaves your cervix intact. 

    Sex After Hysterectomy

    You will typically need to wait four to six weeks after surgery before having sex again.

     

    Will your sex life be the same? The research points to both positive and negative outcomes. A study from the University of Maryland Medical Center found the majority of women had more sex, more orgasms, and less pain during sex after their hysterectomy. However, according to the National Health Service, one in five women who've had a hysterectomy develop new sexual problems.

    Vaginal dryness, along with other postmenopausal symptoms will affect some women. There are a variety of ways to combat this condition, including water-based lubricants, vaginal moisturizers, and regular sexual activity -- self-stimulation or with a partner. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a low dose estrogen cream.

    Sources:

    Cedars-Sinai: Minimally Invasive Hysterectomy

    National Health Service: Sex After Hysterectomy (2016).

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Sexual Relations Improve After Hysterectomy (1999).

    Continue Reading