What to Expect After a Hysterectomy
Having a hysterectomy is like flying to a country you’ve never been to before. Your arrival at this new place—life without a uterus and the central role it has played in your life for many years—can bring excitement and discovery. It can bring a few challenges, too.
While woman all experience the physical and emotional aspects of hysterectomy differently, many have newfound freedoms to celebrate: freedom from monthly menstrual cycles and from symptoms that eroded quality of life; freedom from fears of GYN cancer and from pregnancy worries and birth control hassles.
Here’s what else the journey ahead may hold for you, from post-surgery side effects to changes in how your body functions.
ON THIS PAGE:
- What Your Hysterectomy Recovery May Be Like
- Menopause and More: How Your Body Changes
- How Hysterectomy Can Affect Your Emotions
- Will Your Sex Life Change After a Hysterectomy?
- Why CIGC?
The GYN surgical experts at The Center for Innovative GYN Care know that having a hysterectomy is a major decision. Talk to a patient advocate about meeting with a specialist who will help you explore your options.
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What Your Hysterectomy Recovery May Be Like
The first few days and weeks of hysterectomy recovery are heavily influenced by the method used to perform the procedure. Roughly half of all hysterectomies in the United States are done via the open abdominal approach. This method requires the longest incision, most hospital days and longest recovery. Laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgical techniques, on the other hand, use small incisions that allow for faster healing. CIGC developed a different kind of minimally invasive technique that makes just two small, strategically placed incisions to allow for the fastest recovery, roughly a week to 10 days.
Expect to spend several days in the hospital—or none. Open abdominal surgery may require up to three days in the hospital. Laparoscopic hysterectomies can be performed on an outpatient basis in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) like the ones used by CIGC, allowing patients to bypass the hospital setting. During the pandemic, this can mean less risk of COVID-19 exposure.
You may have some or all of these short-term side effects from the hysterectomy itself. They include stomach swelling and abdominal pain or general discomfort, which typically improve with each day; incision site soreness or itching; urination and bowel movements that may take a few days to return to normal; light vaginal bleeding that may last a few days to a few weeks; and numbness that runs from your incisions to lower down your leg.
Amounts of pain and scarring will vary. Smaller and fewer incisions mean less scarring and generally less pain.
- Women have more difficult recoveries after open procedures due in large part to the 10 cm to 15 cm abdominal incision.
- Standard and robotic-assisted laparoscopic methods require between three and seven incisions, each 8 mm to 12 mm long.
- CIGC specialists use just two 5 mm incisions and spare the abdominals when accessing the uterus, so pain is minimal and scars become barely noticeable.
Your body and your doctor will tell you when it’s OK to resume your normal activities. A general rule: Start back slowly and stop if you feel pain or discomfort.
Patients who have an advanced DualPortGYN hysterectomy at CIGC often feel ready to go back to work and start exercising again in a week or two. After hysterectomies performed with other methods, limits on lifting and activity become more of an issue due to the risk of hernias and other injuries.
Open abdominal hysterectomies generally require about four to six weeks until you can return to work, do more strenuous exercises and lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk.
You should be capable of driving as soon as you’ve gone three days without taking any narcotics for pain and can stop your vehicle in an emergency.
You will need to wait up to two months to have sexual intercourse. If you’ve had your cervix removed, the top of your vagina will have been stitched closed, and it will take six to eight weeks to heal before you can safely have intercourse. Sex can resume sooner after a supracervical hysterectomy — about four weeks. Either way, you should wait until your doctor gives the OK at your post-surgery checkup. These guidelines are the same regardless of the surgical method used to perform your procedure.
CIGC’s advanced hysterectomy technique provides the best surgery and recovery experiences possible. Talk to a patient advocate to find out more.
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Menopause and More: How Your Body Changes
Many women believe that having a hysterectomy will put them into menopause, which isn’t true. Simply having a basic hysterectomy, which involves removing just the uterus and sometimes its lower portion, the cervix, won’t bring on menopause. This is because the uterus is not a hormone-producing organ. Menopause only occurs when both ovaries are also removed (a procedure called a bilateral oophorectomy), since the hormones they produce are lost.
Without the ovaries’ hormones, symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and depression may set in. Estrogen-only therapy can help alleviate these conditions.
You won’t have monthly menstrual cycles after a hysterectomy. With your uterus gone, there is no more uterine lining to shed and so bleeding and cramping permanently cease. (So do uterine fibroids and adenomyosis if you suffered from those conditions.)
If you keep your cervix, you might still bleed every month. The only exception to the lifetime hall pass from periods is if you have a supracervical hysterectomy and keep your ovaries, too. It’s not uncommon in this scenario for leftover endometrial cells from the uterus to linger in the cervix and cause light monthly bleeding. These mini periods should resolve over time.
You might gain weight. The emphasis here is on might. Studies have not conclusively shown that hysterectomies cause weight gain, but there is some evidence that women may be at higher risk for weight gain in the first year after their surgery. Anecdotally, post-hysterectomy weight gain is a common refrain in online support groups.
How Hysterectomy Can Affect Your Emotions
Along with discovering what life is like free from pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding or other GYN symptoms comes the realization that some things really are different now.
Mourning the loss of fertility takes many women by surprise. After a hysterectomy, you can’t get pregnant. While this can devastate someone who still wanted to bear children, women have reported feeling sad about it even though they were done with fertility or never wanted it.
You may experience mood swings. Hormonal changes from the loss of ovaries can affect your moods. If the swings persist, talk to your doctor about possible treatments.
Will Your Sex Life Change After a Hysterectomy?
Many women worry about hysterectomy’s effect on their sexuality. The topic is difficult for researchers to address partly due to the many differences among women — whether they had a satisfying sex life before the surgery, for example, or what organs were removed during the procedure.
There are studies, though, that suggest sexual satisfaction is the same prior to and after a hysterectomy for most women. Other studies report that satisfaction improves for some in the short term—possibly because the women no longer have abnormal bleeding or pelvic pain getting in their way–and then returns to normal levels later.
After a hysterectomy in which the cervix is removed, the vagina does become slightly shorter once the top is sutured shut. This should not pose any problems because the vagina elongates during intercourse.
Orgasms and sensations in the vagina have been reported as being the same or less intense.
For women who don’t enjoy sex as much as they used to, a lack of estrogen after having their ovaries removed is likely to blame. An estrogen-only therapy product can make a dramatic difference in all aspects of sexual function, from increasing lubrication to restoring libido.
Talk to your physician if you experience symptoms that interfere with your ability to enjoy intercourse.
GYN surgical specialists at The Center for Innovative GYN Care combine surgical skill with compassionate, personalized care. Talk to a patient advocate to schedule a hysterectomy consultation today.
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CIGC’s co-founders, minimally invasive GYN surgical specialists Paul MacKoul, M.D., and Natalya Danilyants, M.D., developed advanced GYN surgical techniques that use only two small incisions for patients’ fast recovery. Their personalized approach to care helps patients gain a better understanding of their condition and the recommended treatment so they can have confidence from the very start. Our surgeons have performed more than 25,000 GYN procedures and are constantly finding better ways to improve outcomes for patients.
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CIGC is dedicated to helping women find relief from complex GYN conditions like hysterectomy. The CIGC founders, minimally invasive GYN surgical specialists Paul MacKoul, MD, and Natalya Danilyants, MD, developed their advanced GYN surgical techniques using only two small incisions with patients’ well-being in mind.
Their personalized approach to care helps patients gain a better understanding of their condition and the recommended treatment so they can have confidence from the very start. Our surgeons have performed more than 25,000 GYN procedures and are constantly striving to improve outcomes for patients.