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Information for women, their partners and families about hysterectomies.

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus (womb). It is one of the most common gynaecological operations. After the operation you will no longer have periods or be able to get pregnant.

The following links provide further information about hysterectomy:

Why do I need a hysterectomy?

You may be advised to have a hysterectomy because of:

  • Painful, heavy or frequent periods that do not improve with medical or other treatments
  • Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths in the womb)
  • A prolapsed womb, where weakened ligaments and muscles cause the womb to drop
  • Cancer of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries

What happens during a hysterectomy?

There are different ways to perform a hysterectomy:

  • Abdominal hysterectomy - the womb is removed through a cut in the tummy
  • Laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery) - small cuts are made in the abdomen (tummy) and the womb is then removed through the vagina
  • Vaginal hysterectomy - the womb is removed through your vagina and there is no external scar

Depending on the condition(s) that led to the need for a hysterectomy, you may need to have other parts of your reproductive system (such as the ovaries, cervix or fallopian tubes) removed as well as the womb.

The British Society for Urogynaecology (BSUG) has an information leaflet about vaginal hysterectomy for uterine prolapse (PDF).

Recovering after your hysterectomy

Whichever type of hysterectomy you have, it is a major operation. Everyone recovers at a different rate. You will have some pain and discomfort for at least the first few days after your operation and possibly longer.

The links below provide more information about recovering from some of the most common procedures:

Surgical menopause

If you have a hysterectomy and your ovaries are also removed, and you have not yet been through the natural menopause, you may start having menopausal symptoms immediately following the operation. If you have a hysterectomy and your ovaries are left behind, you may still experience menopausal symptoms earlier than expected. Symptoms can include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Dry skin
  • Dryness of the vagina
  • Feeling low and anxious
  • Being less interested in sex

Many of these symptoms can be eased by hormone replacement therapy (HRT). There are also alternative ways of managing the potential symptoms, which your doctor will discuss with you.

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