What Are The Side Effects After Undergoing a Hysterectomy

What to Expect After a Hysterectomy

Nurse with medical records talking to patient in hospital room. Credit: Sam Edwards / Getty Images

A hysterectomy is a surgical approach used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including gynecologic cancer. Women who are advised to have a hysterectomy are often concerned about the effects of the procedure, and how their bodies will respond to no longer having a uterus.

These are valid concerns, as the procedure can cause a variety of effects, depending upon what type of hysterectomy a woman undergoes.

What Are the Three Types of Hysterectomy Surgeries?

Total hysterectomy: Most women who undergo a hysterectomy will have a total hysterectomy, which involves the removal of both the uterus and the cervix.

Radical hysterectomy: A radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, and upper part of the vagina. Tissues that support the uterus and the lymph nodes may also be removed. In cases of gynecologic cancer, this type of hysterectomy is often recommended.

Partial Hysterectomy: Also called a subtotal hysterectomy, this type of procedure involves the removal of the uterus only, leaving the cervix intact.

During a hysterectomy, the ovaries may also be removed. This procedure is referred to as a hysterectomy plus bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

Side Effects of Hysterectomy Surgery

As previously mentioned, the side effects you experience will vary based on the type of hysterectomy you get.

Considering that all hysterectomy surgeries involve the removal of the uterus, women who have not yet entered menopause will no longer menstruate, an event called forced or surgical menopause. Women who undergo a total hysterectomy plus bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy will experience these effects immediately.

Another side effect of having your uterus removed is, of course, infertility. As women in their childbearing years do undergo hysterectomies because of medical conditions, this effect can be emotionally devastating for those who desire children. Many turn to adoption or surrogacy to have children. While not available now, research is being conducted on the possibility of uterus transplants for women who can no longer have children due to a hysterectomy or other medical cause. In 2014, several women actually successfully bore children thanks to uterine transplants, but this is still a controversial procedure, and testing continues.

After a hysterectomy, you may also experience menopausal symptoms, such as:

Women whose ovaries are spared still do experience the same physical effects as women who have had their ovaries removed, but to a lesser degree. Even though the ovaries remain, hormone production slows down, decreasing the level of hormones in the body.

Hormonal changes can also bring about mood swings, anxiety, depression, and irritability. If you experience emotional effects after a hysterectomy, talk to your doctor. Treatment depends on upon several factors, such as the type of hysterectomy you had, and any other existing health conditions with which you are struggling. Together, you can plan a course of action to keep your emotions stabilized that is tailored to your own needs and medical history.

The prospect of no longer menstruating can be a relief for women undergoing a hysterectomy, especially those who suffer from heavy periods or cramping during their cycle. This aspect of the procedure is often referred to as the "silver lining" among hysterectomy patients.

Concerns About Cancer Screening After a Hysterectomy

Along with the side effects above, many women are concerned with cervical cancer screening after having the procedure. It's a common misconception that women who have had a hysterectomy no longer need a Pap smear. If you had a hysterectomy because of cervical cancer or have a history of cervical dysplasia, you should continue to have routine cervical exams, such as Pap smears and/or colposcopic exams, at your doctor's discretion. This is true even if your cervix has been removed.

Women who do not have a history of cervical cancer or cervical dysplasia and have had their cervix removed no longer require regular screenings. 

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