Watch this video of consultant Zoe Woodward answering questions about what it is like to have a hysterectomy.
What is a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is an operation to remove your uterus (womb). It’s one of the more common gynaecological operations performed in the UK.
As well as the uterus, a hysterectomy may involve removal of the fallopian tubes, ovaries or cervix.
Around 55,000 hysterectomy operations are carried out in the UK each year. This means about one in five women will have a hysterectomy at some point.
The most common age to have one is between 40-50, however they are often carried out on women outside of this age group.1
Why do I need a hysterectomy?
Your gynaecologist might suggest a hysterectomy for various reasons. These can include:
- Periods that are heavy, painful or frequent
- Fibroids (non-cancerous growths in the womb)
- Prolapsed womb
- Cancer of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries2
A hysterectomy is a major operation that takes a while to recover from. It will only be recommended if you’ve tried alternative treatments and they haven’t worked for you.3
What happens to your body when you have a hysterectomy?
One of the most significant consequences of a hysterectomy is that you will no longer have periods or be able to get pregnant.
If you have your ovaries removed as well as your womb, and have not yet gone through the menopause, you will experience surgical menopause after your operation.
If you keep one or both of your ovaries, you may still go into menopause earlier than you would have otherwise.3
What is recovery like after a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is a major operation and there will be a recovery period before you feel back to normal.
You could be in the hospital for up to five days. Your length of stay will depend both on the type of operation you have and on your personal circumstances. The same factors will affect how long it takes you to recover.4
Recovery from an abdominal hysterectomy can take six to eight weeks, though it can be shorter after other methods. During this time you are advised to rest as much as possible and avoid strenuous activities such as heavy lifting.
If your job is not manual, you may be able to return to work after four to eight weeks.
Talk to your consultant about returning to driving. You may not be able to drive for as long as eight weeks.
Before you get back behind the wheel, be sure to check with your insurance company as all policies are different.4
What side effects should I expect after the operation?
Immediately after surgery, it’s normal to feel tired and in some pain. Your doctor or nurse will give you painkillers if you need them.
Some people find that they feel sick after the anaesthetic, but again your doctor or nurse can give you something to manage this.4
You’ll have some vaginal bleeding and discharge, which could last up to six weeks.
You may also experience bowel disturbances including constipation and could develop a urinary tract infection.
It’s a good idea to drink plenty of fluids and eat lots of fruit and high fibre foods to help with bowel and bladder movements.4
When can I have sex after a hysterectomy?
You should avoid having sex after a hysterectomy until your scars have healed and you are no longer having vaginal discharge. This will normally take four to six weeks.
Once you’re healed, sex is safe so long as you feel comfortable having it.
You’ll no longer need to use contraception against pregnancy, however you should still use condoms to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.4