Hysterectomy recovery - impact of losing a womb

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The female body is a wonder to behold. The ability of a woman to reproduce and feed her young is inherently female. Taking away that ability prematurely can affect her physical and emotional well-being. Much like a woman who has undergone mastectomy may be emotionally tied to the loss of a breast, one who has experienced a hysterectomy may share similar feelings and others.

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a portion or the entirety of the uterus. The uterus, also known as the womb, is where a baby grows during pregnancy. The Office of Women’s Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says doctors may also remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries during a hysterectomy surgery.

A hysterectomy is the second most common surgery performed on women in the United States, as roughly 500,000 are performed each year. Women recommended for hysterectomy surgery are those with serious conditions that cannot be or were not successfully treated in other ways, like uterine fibroids, uterine prolapse, heavy or unusual vaginal bleeding, and adenomyosis. Those with cancers of the reproductive system also may be candidates.

Physical changes to expect

Experiences following a hysterectomy are unique to each woman. However, some changes tend to be more common than others.

As with any surgery, there will be a certain recovery time after a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy can be performed abdominally or vaginally, depending on the size of the uterus and the advice of the surgeon. Post-surgery pain is to be expected, and recovery can take several weeks. It is normal to have bloody vaginal discharge for several days to weeks after the procedure, advises the Mayo Clinic.

If the ovaries were removed during surgery, this creates a surgical menopause. Hot flashes, hormonal fluctuations and other menopausal changes can occur, states the health and wellness resource Verywell Health. Some doctors prescribe hormone replacement therapy.

Potential emotional changes

Women may have mixed emotions following a hysterectomy. There may be relief that painful symptoms are no longer present. In addition, some women are happy they no longer have to deal with menstrual periods.

Some patients experience depression and loss after a hysterectomy. Losing one’s ability to become pregnant is a profound loss for many women. These feelings may be especially intense for women who never had children.

Others fear aging faster or think that having their womb removed will reduce their femininity. Even if the ovaries were removed during surgery, certain treatments that can help women maintain hormonal balance to prevent sudden changes.

Hysterectomy surgeries are relatively common. Women who must undergo such surgeries can work with their doctors so they know what to expect during and after surgery.