Hysterectomies are very common in the United States — as are questions about what to expect after this procedure to remove a woman’s uterus.
Some women may feel uncomfortable asking their doctors personal questions about the procedure. For example: What is sex after a hysterectomy going to be like? Will it cause urinary problems?
Physicians say there are no embarrassing questions, however. Not when it comes to your health.
“Where your body and your health are concerned, there are no embarrassing questions,” says DeAnna Young, MD, an OB-GYN at Scripps Coastal Medical Center. “We want to help you feel comfortable if you are thinking or planning to have a hysterectomy and make sure we address all your questions and concerns.”
A hysterectomy is the second most common surgery among women in the United States. It may be performed to treat several medical conditions, including painful uterine fibroids, cancer and endometriosis. Depending on a woman’s medical needs, the surgeon may remove other reproductive organs, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Hysterectomy used to automatically mean open surgery with a long incision across the abdomen to remove the uterus, and a lengthy recovery.
Minimally invasive surgery — including robotic hysterectomy — has now replaced open surgery in many cases. This type of surgery requires only a few small incisions, resulting in less pain and bleeding, a faster recovery time and minimal scarring.
Dr. Young answers four commonly asked questions about hysterectomy.
In most cases, you’ll get the green light for intercourse about four to six weeks after surgery. This is usually enough time for your incisions to heal, and any vaginal bleeding or discharge to stop. If you don’t feel ready after six weeks, it’s okay to wait. Everybody is different.
A hysterectomy shouldn’t affect your ability to enjoy sex. Typically, it does not affect sensation in the vagina or a woman’s ability to have an orgasm. However, if your ovaries were removed during the procedure, it could affect your sex drive due to hormonal changes.
Most women say their sex life either stayed the same or improved after the procedure. If your condition caused painful intercourse before your procedure, it would likely feel better.
Physicians recommend taking your time easing back into sex and telling your partner what feels good and what hurts. If you do experience discomfort or bleeding during sex, see your doctor.
A hysterectomy should not have any long-term effects on your bladder. Some women experience bladder spasms during the first several weeks after surgery, but generally improve with time. If you have spasms that are painful, your doctor may prescribe medication for pain relief.
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the pelvic floor muscles that hold your reproductive organs in place become weakened or damaged. As a result, the organs may prolapse or drop out of position.
Minimally invasive hysterectomy usually does not increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse. Your doctor may still recommend exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. In rare cases where additional treatment is needed, minimally invasive surgery can correct the condition.
Removing only your uterus will not send you into menopause. You will still ovulate, but you will not have a menstrual period or be able to become pregnant. If your ovaries are removed as well, you will no longer ovulate and will be in menopause.
The type of hysterectomy that is best for you depends on your medical condition, your plans for a family and other individual factors.
“Discuss your concerns with your doctor, and together you will determine the approach that is best for you,” Dr. Young says.