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Preparing for hysterectomy surgery

Hysterectomy is the second most common type of gynecologic surgery, after cesarean sections. There are several reasons why a woman may need a hysterectomy. The procedure is frequently done due to cervical or other gynecologic cancers, endometriosis and other conditions, such as the presence of uterine fibroids. Be sure you know all the details of the surgery that is recommended.

What is a Hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus, but sometimes the cervix, ovaries and other organs are also removed. The procedure can be done abdominally, vaginally or laparoscopically (using a small incision with special instruments, either through the abdomen or the vagina). A partial hysterectomy, also known as a subtotal hysterectomy, involves removing only the upper part of the uterus and usually the falopian tubes, but leaves the cervix intact. Partial hysterectomies are performed because they are slightly less invasive and tend to allow for more physical senstation during intercourse.

If you will be having a hysterectomy, plan to be away from work and your regular activities while you recover from the surgery. If you are having an abdominal hysterectomy, you will likely be in the hospital for a day or two. It can take from four to eight weeks to recover from abdominal hysterectomy. Recovery from vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy is much speedier, taking only one to two weeks.

Post-Surgery Effects

The surgery will affect you in many ways. If you have been living with pain, severe bleeding and other problems before the surgery, you will likely feel great relief in being free from these symptoms. On the other hand, you may experience depression (especially if you have not yet reached menopause) due to the life changes caused by the surgery. If you had hoped to become pregnant in the future, you may feel grief because this is no longer possible after a hysterectomy.

Hysterectomy and Menopause

You will no longer have periods after hysterectomy. While this effect is beneficial, you will no longer be able to tell when you are entering menopause. In fact, if your ovaries are removed along with your uterus, you will enter menopause immediately. Usually, the hormonal changes associated with menopause occur gradually, over a year or so. When the surgery causes you to enter menopause immediately, these hormonal changes will occur all at once, and the effect may be more severe than normal menopause.

Women differ in how menopause affects their intimate relationships. For some women, the fact that they need no longer worry about pregnancy may actually increase their comfort with sexual relations. Others may have lower sexual desire, due to the hormonal changes brought on by the surgery. Some women who have had an abdominal hysterectomy may feel self-conscious about the surgical scar in their abdomen.

After you have fully recovered from the surgery, you probably will not have problems with pain during sex. Often the vagina can shorten as a result of the surgery, but the vagina is elastic and can usually recover.

If you need to have a hysterectomy, be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to recover from the surgery and the hormonal changes. This is a major transition, but can lead to a pain-free and comfortable future.

By Patricia King

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