Hysterectomy: what you need to know

Explore the answers to commonly asked questions about hysterectomy...

Why might I need a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove your womb. There are several reasons why you might need this operation. Hysterectomy is used to treat different conditions. These include:

  • Endometriosis

  • Heavy periods

  • Long-term pelvic pain

  • Fibroids

  • Cancer (of ovaries, uterus, cervix or fallopian tubes)

Is this the only option?

Having a hysterectomy is a serious operation. It’s usually only considered after all the other treatments have been tried.

There may be some conditions, for example cancer, where a hysterectomy is the only treatment option. But for other conditions, there are some things to discuss with your doctor before you make the final decision.

  • Do your symptoms seriously affect your quality of life?

  • Have you considered all possible alternative treatments?

  • Are you prepared for an early menopause?

  • Do you want to have more children?

What will the operation be like?

There are different versions of the operation – removal of the womb, removal of the womb and ovaries and removal of womb, ovaries and cervix.

Depending on why you need the surgery and how much of needs to be removed, the operation will be done in one of three ways. You can have it done through a cut in your abdomen tummy, through keyhole surgery (small cuts in your abdomen), or through a cut at the top of your vagina.

How long will it take to recover?

A hysterectomy is a major operation and you should expect to stay in hospital for up to five days and then take six to eight weeks to fully recover.

While you’re healing, you should try to rest as much as possible and don’t lift anything heavy.

Some women feel that having their womb removed has made them feel less ‘womanly’. This is understandable and it’s a good idea to find someone to talk to about this to help you come to terms with it.

What can I do to help?

The fitter you are, the easier it might be to recover and get back on your feet after the operation.

If you are going to have a surgical menopause, decide what kind of HRT you are going to have.

Prepare yourself for resting once you get home. Have things to do – books, films, you won’t be able to lift or bend easily, so have the things you need to hand.

What will the long-term effects be?

If you have had your ovaries removed during the operation, you will go through the menopause immediately. You may well be offered HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to treat this.

But if one or both of your ovaries are intact, there’s a chance you will go through the menopause within five years of the operation. Many women are worried about the affect a hysterectomy will have on their sex lives. There is no evidence that it will make a difference.

If you’re concerned about any potential symptoms or have any questions about hysterectomy, you can make an appointment to see your GP. Alternatively, if you are a Benenden Health member, you can call our helpline for medical advice from a qualified UK-based GP, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Learn more about GP 24/7