Having an upcoming hysterectomy can be an intimidating thing.
First, there’s the surgical aspect. Practically no one enjoys the thought being placed under anesthesia, and the thought of being in any amount of pain post surgery is overwhelming. You may also wonder what is involved with your recovery. How long will you need to stay in the hospital and when can you resume sexual activity?
Then, there’s the emotional aspect of having a hysterectomy. You’re not just having your tonsils removed, you’re having some or all of your female reproductive organs removed. If you’re feeling a little emotional about it, you should know that’s completely normal. We’ll look at what causes you to feel sadness and anxiety after your surgery and what you can do about it.
The third unknown is how your body will change after you’ve had your hysterectomy. Not only will you likely get relief from the issue that led you have your hysterectomy on the first place, you’ll also notice some definite changes in your sex life, your hormone levels, and your vaginal health.
Knowing what to expect post surgery is crucial to feeling in control of your own health and not being taken by surprise when you experience a change. If you’re headed to surgery, we’ve got the information you need to know to be prepared on the other side.
Surgery And Types Of Hysterectomy
You’ve likely already developed a surgical plan with your specialist and know what to expect in terms of the day of your surgery, the procedure itself, and how long your recovery will last.
If you’re just in the beginning phases of planning a hysterectomy, you should know some basic facts.
There are four different types of hysterectomies: total hysterectomy, subtotal hysterectomy, hysterectomy with oophorectomy, and radical hysterectomy. Each different type of hysterectomy involves removal of your uterus.
While a subtotal hysterectomy removes the uterus only, the remaining types of hysterectomies include removal of the uterus along with additional parts, like the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and upper portion of the vagina. Each surgery is different, and removal of all of your reproductive organs may not be necessary. Your specialist will walk you through your options.
Surgery can be performed three different ways: You can have a laparoscopic hysterectomy, which involves a small incision in your abdomen through which a camera is placed. Your surgeon uses the camera to determine where your organs are located and safely remove them through another small incision, or through your vagina. This is least invasive, and the most preferred method used today.
You can also have a vaginal hysterectomy. This involves an incision in your vagina and removal of your organs through your vaginal opening. It may sound like a “heck no” option, but it’s actually less invasive than an abdominal hysterectomy. There’s a caveat here: your sexual activity recovery time will be longer, meaning you’ll have to wait a little longer before you do the deed again.
An abdominal hysterectomy involves a longer, more pronounced incision on your abdomen through which your surgeon will remove your organs. This is the most invasive type of hysterectomy and the recovery time is usually longest with this type of procedure.
Depending on your surgical procedure, it may be possible for you to return home the same day of your surgery. For instance, if you undergo laparoscopic surgery, you will likely be discharged the same day. However, many women do need to stay an extra day or two to ensure there are no complications, especially if your surgery has been particularly invasive. Be prepared to stay, just in case.
When can you have sex again? That really depends on the procedure, but you can plan on remaining celibate for at least six weeks post-op. While you may not be able to have anything inserted into your vagina for six weeks, you may be able to engage in other sexual activity, but you’ll need to check with your doctor.
If you have questions about your procedure or your recovery, ask your doctor. You are your own healthcare advocate, so it’s important to ask all the questions you want and make sure you have all the answers before you proceed.
Post Hysterectomy Emotions
There are two reasons you might experience emotional distress after your hysterectomy.
Rapid hormone changes: If you have a hysterectomy that removes your ovaries, you will experience a change in your hormones if you have not already entered into menopause. The ovaries produce estrogen, and the sudden lack of estrogen can produce feelings of anxiety. You may also feel tearful or weepy; kind of like bad PMS. This is all normal, and your doctor should discuss with you if hormone replacement therapy is an option.
Feelings of loss: Many women feel a certain sadness or void before and after having a hysterectomy. In fact, even if you didn’t plan to have children, or were done having children, it is normal to grieve the loss of your ability to have children in the future. Many women are surprised with these feelings because they were unexpected, so be prepared to feel different things.
Women sometimes feel “less feminine” after their hysterectomy. This is completely normal, even if you think it’s irrational to feel this way. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling. Nothing you’re feeling is wrong.
If you’ve had a hysterectomy related to removal of cancer or tumors, you may feel depressed, especially if your treatment plan includes post surgery therapies that will be difficult. It may be a good idea to find a support group for other women who are also going through the same type of experience.
The emotional aspect of post hysterectomy life is very real, and can feel extremely isolating and lonely. The best thing you can do is talk to others about what you’re feeling, and seek the help of a trained therapist when needed. Remember that you aren’t alone and everything you’re feeling is normal. Talking about it will help.
Post Surgery Physical Changes
You may have heard rumors that your sex life diminishes after a hysterectomy, or that you’ll immediately go into menopause. There’s no denying that these things can sometimes happen, but they don’t always happen.
For instance, you won’t be thrown into menopause unless you have your ovaries removed and were not already in menopause before your hysterectomy. Additionally, you may not experience a lowered libido; many women find they enjoy sex much more after their hysterectomy.
There are other changes that accompany a hysterectomy that might not be so pleasant, especially if you’ve had your ovaries removed.
Your vagina is a tiny microbiome with countless bacteria. When something causes an overgrowth of any of the bacteria, it can cause your vaginal pH level to change. That change can result in things like vaginal odor, discomfort, itching, burning, and even pain during sex.
You may also be more likely to develop vaginal infections after your hysterectomy. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It’s just something you’ll want to watch out for as you get back to your normal sexual activities.
Symptoms of a vaginal infection include:
- – Burning, itching, and irritation inside the vagina and on the vulva.
- – Pain during sex and/or while peeing.
- – Discharge ranging in color from grey, to green, yellow, and white with a thick or thin consistency.
- – A fishy odor.
If these symptoms sound familiar, you might have an infection. Keep in mind, if this is the first time you’ve had these symptoms you’ll want to talk with your doctor. If you’re familiar with these symptoms and they’ve happened a few times post-surgery, you can look at other ways to treat them.
You can use Boric Acid suppositories to treat vaginal infections like BV from the comfort of your own home. This is an effective and easy way to treat vaginal infections. You won’t have to visit the doctor and it’s a great way to treat BV without using antibiotics.
Life after a hysterectomy is different, but it can still be amazing, too. Keep communicating with your doctor, your loved ones, and your support group about how you feel, and keep effective vaginal health products on hand to combat post-surgical issues.
Sarah Nelson is a nurse with 15 years of experience working with a variety of patients. She has a Masters of Science in Nursing and has spent a large portion of her career working exclusively with women in an OB/GYN setting.
Nursing is a passion for Sarah but she also enjoys writing and sharing her expertise online with people who need helpful information. Treating patients well and helping them learn more about their own bodies is a key essential to a healthy lifestyle that Sarah truly believes in.