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5 things you need to know about having a hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is a major surgery that involves the removal of the uterus (womb). This means you will not be able to conceive or become pregnant after undergoing this surgery. According to the NHS, women in their 40s or 50s are more likely to have a hysterectomy. We speak with Consultant gynaecologist, Miss Premila Thampi about what a hysterectomy involves and what you need to know about having a hysterectomy.

Every year 55, 000 hysterectomy operations are performed in the UK with one in five women undergoing a hysterectomy in their lifetime. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the uterus (womb). The NHS states women aged 40 to 50 are more likely to undergo a hysterectomy. We speak with BMI Consultant gynaecologist, Miss Premila Thampi about the different types of hysterectomy and who it is recommended for. We also round up five vital things you need to know about having a hysterectomy.

Miss Premila Thampi is a Consultant gynaecologist at BMI The Saxon Clinic. She performs more than 30 major operations on a yearly basis. These include hysterectomies and prolapse repairs. Miss Premila Thampi also manages patients with heavy and painful periods, fertility problems, early pregnancy problems, ovarian cysts, prolapse and pelvic pain. She uses a holistic or patient-centered approach to treat gynaecological problems. She also collaborates with a multidisciplinary team of nurses and physiotherapists to treat symptoms.

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. It is a major operation and is only considered after less invasive treatments have been tried and failed. This use of less invasive treatments depends on the health condition you have. It can include medication such as painkillers.

"A hysterectomy is one of the most common gynaecological operations. For most women a hysterectomy offers relief from symptoms. Especially for women with heavy menstrual periods. For other women being told they need a major operation can be a major shock." — Miss Premila Thampi

Your GP may recommend a hysterectomy for chronic (long-term) pelvic pain, heavy periods and non-cancerous tumours such as fibroids. A hysterectomy is also carried out to treat ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer or cancer of the fallopian tubes.

"On rare occasions, a hysterectomy is performed as an emergency procedure. For example, for uncontrollable bleeding after childbirth from the womb." — Miss Premila Thampi

Recovery after a vaginal hysterectomy is faster

There are three ways to perform a hysterectomy. The first method is a keyhole surgery also known as a laparoscopic hysterectomy. During the procedure, a small incision is made on your stomach and a small tube with tiny camera is inserted. This allows your surgeon to look at your internal organs. Your surgeon will make other small incisions on your stomach to access and remove your womb.

On the other hand, a vaginal hysterectomy removes your womb and cervix through an incision made on the top of your vagina. The NHS adds your surgeon will then insert an instrument through this incision to detach your womb from the ligaments that hold it in place.

"There are no external scars from a vaginal hysterectomy. A vaginal hysterectomy patient recovers slightly quicker than a patient who has had an abdominal hysterectomy."— Miss Premila Thampi

An abdominal hysterectomy has a longer recover period

The final way a hysterectomy can be performed is through a cut in the lower part of your stomach. This is known as abdominal hysterectomy. General anaesthetic is provided during all types of hysterectomies. But a vaginal hysterectomy is usually the preferred type of hysterectomy. The NHS reveals a vaginal hysterectomy is less invasive and requires a shorter stay in hospital. It only takes one hour to complete.

The recovery period for a hysterectomy depends on the type of hysterectomy you’ve received. If you’ve undergone a vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy, you may be able to leave hospital one to four days after your surgery. However, if you’ve received an abdominal hysterectomy it can take up to five days until you are discharged from hospital. A full recovery for an abdominal hysterectomy can take six to eight weeks.

Your recovery: what not to do after a hysterectomy

Our recommendations on what not to do after a hysterectomy include avoiding heavy lifting until you have fully recovered. It is important to rest and increase your fibre intake. After a hysterectomy, some women suffer from constipation. The NHS recommends taking laxatives to help with your bowel movements and prevent straining.

"Whichever type of hysterectomy you have it is a major operation. Every patient recovers at a different rate. After a hysterectomy you will have pain and discomfort for a few days after the operation and possibly longer. It can take six to eight weeks before you can resume normal activities such as driving or exercising." — Miss Premila Thampi

Hysterectomy side effects: menopause

If your ovaries are removed during your hysterectomy and you’ve not started menopause, you may develop menopausal symptoms. Menopausal symptoms you might experience after a hysterectomy include hot flushes, vaginal dryness, anxiety, sweating and feeling emotional.

However, after your hysterectomy you may receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to improve your symptoms. This can be taken through tablets, an implant or injections. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) replaces hormones that are at lower levels during menopause. These hormones include oestrogen and progestogen. Alongside regulating your menstrual cycle and periods, oestrogen has other important functions. It prevents dryness in your vagina and maintains your skin’s temperature. This decline in oestrogen is linked to most symptoms of menopause.

However, the NHS reveals if you have a uterus (womb) taking oestrogen on its own can increase your risk of developing cancer in your uterus.

"Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around four years after your last period. But some women experience them for much longer." — Miss Premila Thampi

Alongside menopausal symptoms, you may feel upset or a sense of loss after your hysterectomy. The NHS states for some women a hysterectomy can become a trigger for depression. If you are concerned about the emotional impact of a hysterectomy, it’s important to discuss this with your local GP.

If you would like to learn more about having a hysterectomy, our Consultant gynaecologists can help you decide whether a hysterectomy is for you or if less invasive treatment options are available. Please contact our team by calling us on 0808 301 8606 or making an online enquiry. 

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