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Hysterectomy and recovery

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What is a hysterectomy?

Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. It may also include the removal of the fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix.

Why would a hysterectomy be performed?

There are a number of reasons this operation might be performed but it’s also worth noting that this is an elective surgery, meaning in most instances, a woman has a choice whether to have it or not. It is rarely performed as an emergency procedure or for life saving reasons.

A hysterectomy will only be recommended if other treatment options have been unsuccessful. It’s a major operation and as it will result in infertility and menopause (if you haven’t been through menopause already) it also has a lot of emotional implications.

The reasons for this operation may vary but some of the most common are:

  • Heavy periods, also known as Menorrhagia.
  • Pelvic pain due to Endometriosis – this is a condition where cells that line the womb are found in other areas of the body and reproductive system.
  • Unsuccessfully treated pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – this is a bacterial infection of the female reproductive system which if caught early can be treated with antibiotics. Delay in treatment can allow it to spread, causing long term pain.
  • Prolapse of the uterus – this happens when the womb drops down from its normal position due to weakened tissues and ligaments.
  • Cancer of the womb, ovaries or cervix. This would normally only be recommended if the cancer had spread and reached and advanced stage.
  • Hysterectomies are most commonly performed when a woman is between 40-50 years old but it’s not exclusive to this age range as the conditions above can affect women before and after this.

Recovery

This can be a very different experience for everyone, just like the different reasons you may have had this operation. Your state of health beforehand will have a big influence on your recovery as will your age and general fitness levels. Whatever your fitness levels and health levels, you will certainly need some support through your recovery.

Your doctor will run through the procedure with you and will tell you what to expect afterwards in terms of pain relief and the need to rehydrate following the anaesthetic and operation. It’s likely you’ll be attached to a PCA – patient controlled analgesia – which allows you to control your own pain relief and you may have some vaginal bleeding but this shouldn’t last long.

The reality is that to begin with you may not be very mobile and it’s not recommended that you lift anything heavycoping with ibs – bear in mind this includes your weekly food shop. If you live alone or don’t have anyone who can help you, speak to your nurse for details of local support who will be able to help. A hospital physiotherapist may also recommend some exercises to help you regain mobility.

Some back ache and the obvious abdomen discomfort are to be expected and you may notice internal stitches will be passed from the body too – your doctor should explain all these things to you in order to prevent any surprises but make sure you ask as many questions as you need. What you experience afterwards is more than likely just part of the recovery process but unless you know what to expect, it can cause undue worry during what should be a gentle recovery. That said, you should also be made aware of what isn’t normal so that any potential problems can be dealt with promptly.

Additional factors to consider

If your hysterectomy includes the removal of your ovaries, you will experience the menopause immediately after the operation regardless of your age. If the procedure leaves one or both ovaries intact, there is a 50% chance of menopause occurring within 5 years of the operation.

The changes in hormones that are associated with the menopause can cause physical and emotional symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. All these things can affect your confidence and overall mental wellbeing. These won’t last forever but don’t suffer in silence – yes it is part of the process but there are also supplements, medication and all sorts of natural remedies that can help.

Once your uterus has been removed, you will no longer be able to have children. For women who fall into the 40-50 age bracket this may not be an issue if they have already had children and don’t want any more. For younger women having the operation this can be a much harder concept to come to terms with. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and talk to your family – if the choice is yours to make, it can be a difficult one.

Returning to work

This can vary widely from patient to patient depending on the requirements of your job. If your job doesn’t require any heavy lifting then you might think about returning 6-12 weeks after your hysterectomy. If your job requires physical work then this can be substantially longer. Don’t be pressured into returning before you are ready though, the physical and emotional effects of having a hysterectomy can affect people in different ways and you’ll recover at your own rate.

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About Celyn Parry

About Celyn Parry

Celyn Parry has 12 years experience working with a leading children’s retailer but is now focusing on her passion for writing. With many years spent on the shop floor listening to parents, she prides herself on creating down to earth articles with a dash of humour and personal insight. As Step-Mum to adorable chatterbox Max, it’s a bit of a juggling act but it certainly keeps things interesting!

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