Possible Hysterectomy Complications and Side Effects

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Hysterectomies are a common gynecologic procedures performed in the United States. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus, and may be performed for a number of reasons, from fibroids to chronic pelvic pain to gynecologic cancer.

Many people who are advised to have a hysterectomy may be worried about the potential complications and side effects of the surgery, and how their bodies will respond after the removal of their uterus.

hysterectomy side effects

Verywell / Laura Porter

Complications

As with any surgery, there are certain complications that may arise with a hysterectomy, including:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Damage to the colon or urinary tract
  • Blood clots in the leg that can travel to the lungs
  • Anesthesia-related complications with the lungs or heart
  • Nerve or tissue damage
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Fistula formation

A fistula is an abnormal pathway between two organs, such as the bladder and vagina (called a vesicovaginal fistula).

Risk Factors

A person's medical history may make them more or less prone to developing these complications. For instance, people who are obese are more prone to infection and blood clots than those who are at a normal weight.

The reason behind the surgery is another risk factor for developing complications. For example, fistula formation (albeit uncommon) is more likely to occur in people undergoing a hysterectomy for cancer versus people undergoing a hysterectomy for benign gynecological conditions like pelvic organ prolapse.

The type of hysterectomy a person is undergoing also affects their risk. For example, in comparison to a vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy, with an abdominal hysterectomy, there is an increased risk for complications like infection, bleeding, blood clots, nerve damage, and bowel obstruction.

An abdominal hysterectomy also usually requires the longest hospital stay and recovery time. With a laparoscopic hysterectomy, there is usually less pain and a lower risk of infection; however, there is an increased risk of injury to the bladder.

There is also an increased risk of a rare, but very serious complication, called vaginal cuff dehiscence, with a laparoscopic hysterectomy.

Vaginal cuff dehiscence refers to the separation of the incision site where the uterus was removed from the upper part of the vagina.

Side Effects

There are several potential side effects that may occur after a hysterectomy.

Physical

The physical side effects of undergoing a hysterectomy include pain (usually for a few days) and vaginal bleeding and discharge (often for several weeks). Constipation is also common, and some people experience difficulties with urination, nausea, or vomiting.

In addition, if the ovaries are removed, people who have not yet entered menopause will no longer menstruate (called surgical or induced menopause).

As a result, a person may experience a range of menopausal symptoms, such as:

Emotional

Emotional side effects may also occur after a hysterectomy. While most people feel satisfied that their physical symptoms are now gone, some people in their childbearing years may feel anxious or depressed about the loss of fertility.

Please contact a healthcare provider if you feel sad or worried after your hysterectomy. Talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two may help relieve your symptoms.

Sexual

Sexual side effects are also a possibility. Fortunately, research shows that most people who were sexually active before surgery experience the same or better sexual functioning after surgery.

That said, sexual functioning after a hysterectomy is really a complicated topic. Every woman is different, and there are so many factors to consider, such as:

  • Age
  • The reason behind having the surgery (cancer versus a noncancerous condition)
  • The level of support provided by a person's partner
  • Mood problems that existed before the surgery

Summary

A hysterectomy is a commonly performed surgical procedure, which can be done for a variety of reasons. The surgery can be performed in various ways, and each way has it's own set of possible complications.

Recovery can vary also based on the type of surgical procedure used, as well as the reason for the surgery.

A Word From Verywell

A hysterectomy is a common and generally safe surgical procedure. Complications though, and perhaps unforeseen emotional reactions, do occur. If you are experiencing any new and/or bothersome symptoms, please be sure to contact your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are long term side effects of a hysterectomy?

    Long term side effects of a hysterectomy can include:

    • no longer having periods
    • vaginal dryness
    • no longer able to become pregnant
  • What are the side effects of having a partial hysterectomy?

    The side effects of having a partial hysterectomy are similar to having a total hysterectomy, and include:

    • no longer having periods
    • vaginal dryness
    • no longer able to become pregnant


  • What are the side effects of having a hysterectomy after menopause?

    The side effects of a hysterectomy after menopause would be the same as a hysterectomy before menopause.

  • Does having a hysterectomy age you faster?

    Having a hysterectomy won't cause a woman to age more quickly, but there is a possibility of early removal of the ovaries before menopause that may have an impact on how quickly cells age. Further studies are needed.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Medline Plus. Hysterectomy.

  2. Clarke-Pearson DL, Geller EJ. Complications of hysterectomy. Obstet Gynecol. 2013;121(3):654-673. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e3182841594

  3. Committee on Gynecologic Practice. Committee opinion no. 619: Gynecologic surgery in the obese woman. Obstet Gynecol. 2015;125(1):274-278. doi:10.1097/01.AOG.0000459870.06491.71

  4. Hilton P, Cromwell DA. The risk of vesicovaginal and urethrovaginal fistula after hysterectomy performed in the English National Health Service--a retrospective cohort study examining patterns of care between 2000 and 2008. BJOG. 2012;119(12):1447-1454. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03474.x

  5. Lee SH, Oh SR, Cho YJ, et al. Comparison of vaginal hysterectomy and laparoscopic hysterectomy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Womens Health. 2019;19(1):83. doi:10.1186/s12905-019-0784-4

  6. Office on Women's Health. Hysterectomy.

  7. Danesh M, Hamzehgardeshi Z, Moosazadeh M, Shabani-Asrami F. The effect of hysterectomy on women’s sexual function: a narrative review. Mediev Archaeol. 2015;69(6):387-392. doi:10.5455/medarh.2015.69.387-392

  8. Rocca WA, Gazzuola Rocca L, Smith CY, et al. Loss of ovarian hormones and accelerated somatic and mental agingPhysiology (Bethesda). 2018;33(6):374-383.

By Julie Scott, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP
Julie is an Adult Nurse Practitioner with oncology certification and a healthcare freelance writer with an interest in educating patients and the healthcare community.

Originally written by Lisa Fayed