What is a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is a procedure where a surgeon removes the uterus. Typically, this procedure is performed by your OB/GYN to treat the following conditions:
Cancer, including endometrial, uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancers
Chronic pelvic pain
Fibroids (these are benign tumors that can grow in your uterus)
PID (pelvic inflammatory disorder)
Uterine prolapse (this is when the pelvic muscles are no longer able to support the uterus and it drops into the vagina
Emergency procedure in response to an event such as hemorrhage following childbirth
Hysterectomy is one of the most common procedures performed on women in the United States. According to the National Women’s Health Network, it ranks second only to cesarean sections in women of reproductive age. Historically, hysterectomies were also performed to manage symptoms of menopause. However, the current medical perspective is to value women’s reproductive organs beyond their reproductive capabilities and to use hysterectomies to treat chronic and life-threatening conditions.
There are different types of hysterectomies that are performed. The type of procedure is based on what is being treated.
What is a partial hysterectomy?
A partial hysterectomy is where the surgeon removes only the uterus, thus leaving the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes intact. A partial hysterectomy may be performed to treat fibroids, endometriosis, and uterine cancers. Leaving the cervix intact can result in many benefits including maintaining sound inner pelvic structure and enhanced sexual enjoyment.
What is a total hysterectomy?
A total hysterectomy removes the entire uterus and cervix. This is a commonly performed procedure for women with cancers. Indeed, if a woman has cervical cancer but not uterine cancer, she may opt to have the uterus removed as well to decrease her risk for cancer spreading.
There are other types of hysterectomies as well. A hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-ooprectomy removes the uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. In cases of severe pelvic organ cancers, your surgeon may recommend a radical hysterectomy, in which the uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and upper portions of the vagina and affected lymph glands are removed.
If you are wondering, where does sperm go after hysterectomy? First of all, please join us in our Perry Community because we aren’t afraid to ask, and answer, these intriguing questions. Now to answer the question: sperm stays in the vagina until it falls out, or it may go inside the cervix if it is still intact. The cervix is usually cauterized once the uterus is removed, or tissue may build-up to prevent anything from entering the abdominal cavity.
How is a hysterectomy performed?
There are a number of ways a surgeon can perform a hysterectomy.
Vaginal Hysterectomy - This procedure can limit visible scarring and is associated with a quicker recovery rate. The surgeon can remove the cervix, uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes through the vagina. There is a serious risk for shortening or damaging the vagina in surgery. It has been deemed one of the most cost-effective methods of hysterectomy.
Laparoscopic-Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy - The surgeon uses a camera to enhance visibility during the procedure. Three small incisions are made in the abdomen, one of which serves as an opening for a camera. This surgery can take longer than other routes. It is associated with less pain, quicker healing, and greater cost because of surgery time.
Abdominal hysterectomy - This is the most common approach used in hysterectomies. The incision may either be vertical (between the public hairline and navel) or horizontal (“the bikini cut” which is along the public hairline). This approach has a risk for more noticeable scarring and longer recovery time.
Hysterectomy Recovery and Beyond
Hysterectomies usually require a hospital stay to monitor for pain and complications from surgery. Most women return to normal daily activities 3-4 weeks following surgery. However, an abdominal hysterectomy may have a recovery time of 4-6 weeks. You will no longer have periods, nor will you have a need for birth control (aside from sexually transmitted infection prevention). If your ovaries are intact, you will not experience changes in hormones. However, if your ovaries are removed, you will be in surgically-induced menopause.
Hysterectomy may lead to some emotional changes in the recovery period following surgery. While it is normal to react differently to surgery, you may feel alone in your experience. If you are a candidate for or have had a hysterectomy, reach out to our community of incredible women to share in your experience. Our Perry community is filled with expert advice and awesome women in perimenopause. We can’t wait to meet you!
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.
Meet The Author
Perry Babe Julia ( RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care, to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations.
Much of her education and clinical experience is related to educating women on women’s health topics ranging from lifestyle improvements, disease management, and general health education.
Find Julia's Perry community profile right here.