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What is a Hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is an extremely common surgery performed to remove the uterus. Sometimes the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or cervix will be removed as well. A woman who has had a hysterectomy will no longer have periods and cannot get pregnant.

There are a variety of reasons that women have hysterectomies, including:
  • Heavy bleeding or pain, such as that due to fibroids, endometriosis, or adenomyosis
  • Cancer
  • Prolapsed uterus, where the pelvic muscles can no longer completely hold the uterus in place

It is important to note that having any of these conditions does not necessarily mean that a hysterectomy is necessary. There are other available treatment options in most cases.

Although the uterus is responsible for a period, it is the ovaries that control the hormonal changes that women go through every month. So if a woman has a hysterectomy but keeps her ovaries, she might still experience hormonal swings every month even if she no longer has a period. Alternately, if a younger woman has a hysterectomy where her ovaries as removed, she will essentially be in immediate menopause.

A hysterectomy can be performed traditionally through one large cut in the abdomen, laparoscopically using tiny incisions and small tools, or through the vagina. Full recovery may take four to six weeks. After a hysterectomy, you might experience sexual changes such as vaginal dryness or a change in libido. It is common to experience strong emotions after a hysterectomy, including both grief and relief. If your ovaries were removed, you may be at higher risk for certain diseases, such as heart disease and osteoporosis. Taking hormonal birth control might reduce this risk.