What you need to know about hysterectomy

Nearly every woman knows someone who has a hysterectomy – their mum, their aunt, their cousin. And if you have suffered with heavy, painful periods, perhaps due to fibroids or endo, or have severe PMDD, a hysterectomy may be something you’re discussing with your doctor. So I wanted to share some information so you can be fully informed and prepared during those conversations.

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the womb (uterus). There are various types of hysterectomy and the type you have depends on why you need the operation.

The main types of hysterectomy are:

  • total hysterectomy – the womb and cervix (neck of the womb) are removed; this is the most commonly performed operation
  • subtotal hysterectomy – the main body of the womb is removed, leaving the cervix in place
  • total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingectomy) and ovaries (oophorectomy) are removed
  • radical hysterectomy – the womb and surrounding tissues are removed, including the fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands and fatty tissue

There are 3 ways to carry out a hysterectomy:

  • laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery) – where the womb is removed through several small cuts in the tummy
  • vaginal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the top of the vagina
  • abdominal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the lower tummy

Factors to consider

For some people with periods, there may have no other option but to have a hysterectomy. When you have suffered for so many years you’re grateful that there is a permanent solution to your misery. I have clients who’ve never felt better after having their hysterectomy. But like everything with your health, it’s important that you are fully informed and consider all the different aspects.

Here are some of the downsides to a hysterectomy:

  1. It won’t cure endometriosis which can be elsewhere in the pelvis
  2. If at all possible, the ovaries should be kept as they are really important even post-menopause in producing hormones. However, complications during surgery may necessitate removing your ovaries, even if not planned, which means you immediately enter surgical menopause
  3. There is a possibility that even if your ovaries are kept they may prematurely fail once the uterus has been removed. This is because your ovaries receive blood/oxygen/nutrients partly via the uterine artery, and that is missing after hysterectomy
  4. A 2019 rat study suggests that our uterus affects our brain function like learning and memory
  5. Ideally, you should ask to keep your cervix and cardinal ligament to help maintain the vaginal structure
  6. You are more likely to have other pelvic organ prolapse as the space uterus taken up is now missing. Seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist before and after surgery is vital!
  7. It can also cause the spine and front of body to move away from each other which causes back issues and a bulge around the middle
  8. It is an emotional surgery which takes time to heal from
  9. Some people have bad nerve pain after their hysterectomy and they replaced their period pain with ongoing nerve pain
  10. Adhesions and scar tissue from the surgery could create discomfort and difficult digestion, most commonly constipation

If you’d like more information about hysterectomy so you can be a truly informed decision you may enjoy the platforms Hers Foundation and Hyster Sisters and the book Surgical Menopause – Not Your Typical Menopause which is a collection of women’s personal stories about surgical menopause.

Women who suffer with severe period problems or have experienced hysterectomy have found learning abdominal therapy has been a wonderful way to heal and reconnect to this part of their body. You can learn more about The Magic of Abdominal Therapy HERE. 

“I’ve been interested in trying Arvigo to ease my digestion and perimenopause issues and my session with Tara was wonderful. She makes it so simple, it is now part of my morning routine, and I can already feel a difference in my relationship with my body”.

Shannon Murray, actor