Side Effects to Expect After a Hysterectomy

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A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including gynecologic cancer. Women who are advised to have a hysterectomy are often concerned about the effects of the procedure and how their bodies will respond after the removal of their uterus.

These are valid concerns as the procedure can cause a variety of postoperative effects, depending upon which type of hysterectomy a woman undergoes.

Types of Hysterectomy

There are three different types of hysterectomy your gynecologist might recommend in response to specific medical conditions.

  • A total hysterectomy is a procedure that involves the removal of both the uterus and the cervix. It is the most common type performed in women.
  • A radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus, cervix, and upper part of the vagina. Tissues that support the uterus and the lymph nodes may also be removed. In cases of gynecologic cancer, this type of hysterectomy is most often recommended.
  • A partial hysterectomy, also called a subtotal hysterectomy, is a procedure that involves the removal of the uterus only, leaving the cervix intact.

During a hysterectomy, the ovaries may also be removed. This procedure is referred to as a hysterectomy plus bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

Possible Side Effects

The side effects you can experience after a hysterectomy are dependent upon the type of hysterectomy you receive.

Considering that all hysterectomy surgeries involve the removal of the uterus, women who have not yet entered menopause will no longer menstruate (an event called forced or surgical menopause). Women who undergo a total hysterectomy plus bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy will experience these effects immediately.

Another consequence of having your uterus removed is, of course, infertility. The emotion aftermath can often be devastating for women in their childbearing years, particularly for those planning a family. Many turn to adoption or surrogacy or seek counseling to overcome the grief and loss they may feel.

After a hysterectomy, you may experience a range of menopausal symptoms, such as:

Women whose ovaries are spared often do experience many of the same physical effects as those who have had their ovaries removed, albeit to a lesser degree. Even if the ovaries remain, hormone production will be slowed, often significantly, resulting in the rise of menopausal symptoms.

According to a 2014 review published in Current Sexual Health Report, around 20% of women report a deterioration of sexual function after undergoing a hysterectomy. Hormonal changes can also bring about mood swings, anxiety, depression, and irritability.

The prospect of no longer menstruating can be a relief for certain women, especially those who suffer from heavy periods or cramping. This aspect of the procedure is often referred to as the "silver lining" of hysterectomy surgery.

Cervical Cancer Screening

There is often confusion among women as to whether there is a need for cervical cancer screening following a hysterectomy, with some believing that it is no longer necessary. This can be a mistake.

If you have had a hysterectomy as a result of cervical cancer or have a history of cervical dysplasia, it is strongly recommended that you continue to have routine exams at your doctor’s discretion, including Pap smears and colposcopic exams. This is true even if your cervix has been removed.

Women who have undergone a total hysterectomy but have no history of cervical cancer or dysplasia no longer need routine cervical cancer screening, according to guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Reversing Infertility

Researchers are currently exploring the possibility of uterine transplants for women who have had a hysterectomy or other medical conditions that prevent pregnancy. While several women successfully bore children in 2014 as the result of a transplant, it is still considered a highly controversial and experimental procedure.

In 2018, the first birth was reported involving a uterine transplant from a deceased donor.

A Word From Verywell

If you experience any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor. Treatment can depend on many factors, such as the type of hysterectomy performed and any other pre-existing health conditions you may have. Together, you and your doctor can plan a course of action tailored to both your emotional needs and medical history.

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Article Sources

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  2. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Final recommendation statement: cervical cancer screening. April 18, 2017.

  3. Brännström M. Uterus transplantation and beyond. J Mater Sci Mater Med. 2017;28(5):70. doi:10.1007/s10856-017-5872-0

  4. Ejzenberg D, Andraus W, Carelli Mendes LRG, et al. Livebirth after uterus transplantation from a deceased donor in a recipient with uterine infertility. Lancet. 2018 Dec;392(10165):P2697-704. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31766-5