As a woman, the discussion of having a hysterectomy is an important one; however, there are advantages and disadvantages to this popular surgical procedure which need to be explored in order to make the decision which is right for you.
What is a hysterectomy?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, a hysterectomy is the surgical procedure “to remove a woman's uterus.” The uterus is the part of the female reproductive system which houses a developing fetus during pregnancy (also known as the womb). During this procedure, the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and/or the cervix may also be removed depending upon a woman’s reason for having the surgery.
Reasons for Hysterectomy
Reasons for choosing a hysterectomy vary among women. Here are the main ones:
1. Cancer. The discovery of cancer in the uterus, ovaries, cervix, or endometrium is one of the main reasons why a woman would choose to have a hysterectomy. Removal of any or all of the female reproductive system is an important step to treating cancer in these areas.
2. Fibroids (or cysts). Fibroids present on any part of a woman’s reproductive organs are a source of major pain and discomfort, abnormal bleeding and other symptoms. Doctors traditionally treat these with medication or less evasive surgical procedures (such as a myomectomy where the fibroids are simply removed from the affected area). Hysterectomy is considered, then, as a last resort when previous options have failed to provide adequate relief of symptoms.
3. Endometriosis. The Mayo Clinic defines endometriosis as the process where “tissue that normally lines the inside of [a woman’s] uterus — the endometrium — grows outside [the woman’s] uterus.” As with fibroids, this condition is first treated with medication and/or less evasive surgery before a hysterectomy is considered.
4. Prolapse of the uterus. This is the condition where the uterus falls down into the vagina causing either urinary or bowel problems and/or pelvic pressure.
5. Adenomyosis. Similar to endometriosis, the Mayo Clinic defines this as the condition where “endometrial tissue, which normally lines the uterus, is present within and grows into the muscular walls of the uterus.”
6. Chronic pelvic pain. Abnormal vaginal bleeding.
While hysterectomies are the second most common surgery performed on women in the United States, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider.
1. Recovery time. As with any surgery, there is a recovery period. For abdominal hysterectomies, the recovery period is between 4 and 6 weeks. Vaginal and laparoscopic hysterectomies require 3 to 4 weeks recovery. After this time, women are then recommended to slowly return to their normal routines such as work and exercise.
2. Surgical risks. All surgeries come with the possibilities of complications. These include damage to nearby organs, allergic reactions to medications and anesthesia, blood clots in the legs or lungs, infection, and heavy bleeding. Women should discuss their individual risks with their doctor.
3. Decreased interest in sexual activity. Not all women experience this, but it is a possibility. Pain during sexual intercourse. This result usually decreases over time.
4. Change in skin tone. Not all women experience a change in their skin tone, but this is possible considering a hysterectomy affects the hormonal balance of a woman’s body.
5. Hormonal effects. When a hysterectomy involves the removal of the ovaries, hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) is recommended by most doctors.
6. Early menopause. A woman will experience an early menopause when a hysterectomy involves the removal of the ovaries. HRT helps to treat the symptoms of early menopause.
7. Increased risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the thinning of the bones, a risk factor in women who have undergone menopause.
1. Increased overall health. Women who suffer from any of the above mentioned medical conditions involving chronic pain and discomfort usually report relief of their various symptoms soon after the procedure. Some conditions, such as fibroids and endometriosis, are treated using medication and other less evasive surgery for months and even years prior to a hysterectomy being performed.
2. Increased energy. Among the lesser known symptoms of some female medical conditions is chronic fatigue. Those who finally opt for a hysterectomy are pleasantly surprised at their increase in energy level after recovery.
3.Sexual health and enjoyment. Without the constant pain and discomfort associated with some female medical conditions, women usually state that sexual activity is once again enjoyable.
4. Psychological and mental health. Medical conditions associated with the female reproductive organs highly affect the psychological and mental health of women too. The hormones responsible for proper sexual and reproductive health also affect a woman’s psychological and mental health.
In all situations, a hysterectomy results in a woman losing the ability to become pregnant; therefore, considering an individual woman’s age and stage in life, this could be considered either a disadvantage or advantage.
Regardless your situation, deciding to have a hysterectomy is an important life decision. Weight all options carefully before making your decision.