A hysterectomy is an operation to remove the uterus (womb). Depending on why the surgery is needed it may also involve removing one or both of the fallopian tubes and one or both of the ovaries.
After the operation you won’t be able to have children and you won’t have any more periods. Although it’s a major procedure, around 30,000 hysterectomies are carried out each year in the UK according to the NHS.
You’ll meet your consultant in one of our private consultation rooms, during this time you will be able to explain your medical history symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
Your consultant will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests such as scans or blood tests are needed.
You may need to have tests to check for cancer, as this can affect the type of surgery you have. These tests may include:
They’ll then outline a treatment and recovery plan that’s tailored to you.
Before proceeding, you may also need to have a pre-operative assessment. This is to make sure the surgery is right for you, particularly if you’re having a general anaesthetic.
We understand that having surgery can be a time of worry and anxiety. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you holding your hand every step of the way.
On the day of your procedure, our ward staff will show you to your own private room. Usually, you will be with us for two-three nights. We’ll do all we can to make sure you’re comfortable while you’re with us.
Our private rooms include:
Once you’re ready, our nurses will help you prepare for your operation. There’ll be a chance to see your consultant surgeon and meet your anaesthetist. You will be put under a general anaesthetic whichever procedure you have so you’ll be asleep throughout.
During vaginal hysterectomy your surgeon will make an incision to separate the vagina from the neck of the womb and remove the womb through the opening of the vagina. The cut is sewn up using dissolvable stitches. This technique leaves no visible scars and usually takes about an hour.
Alternatively your surgeon may remove your womb with the help of a long thin telescope (called a laparoscope) which enables them to see what is going on inside your belly. Several small cuts are made in the skin on your abdomen and the laparoscope is inserted. Gas is pumped into the abdomen to inflate the space around your womb before your doctor removes it through the opening of the vagina. Again dissolvable stitches are used to seal the cuts. During abdominal hysterectomy your surgeon will make either a vertical or horizontal incision on your abdomen and remove the womb through this long cut. Stitches or metal clips will be used to close the incision.
Your surgeon will put in a catheter (tube) to drain urine from your bladder into a bag beside your bed because most women have difficulty passing urine for a few days after a hysterectomy.
The operation usually lasts about an hour.
After the procedure you will be taken from the operating theatre to a recovery room where you will come round from the anaesthesia under close supervision. After this you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.
You will feel sore after the operation and you may have some bruising and swelling so we will give you pain relief medication while you’re with us.
A physiotherapist may visit you while you’re with us and show you some exercises to do that will help speed up your recovery.
Your surgeon will visit you before you go home to assess your progress and answer any questions that you have. Your nurse will give you a contact telephone number for the hospital and will arrange a follow-up appointment for you.
Women normally need to have a hysterectomy due to one of the following reasons and where other treatment options have been unsuccessful:
Heavy periods which can often be caused by fibroids. These are non-cancerous tumours that grow in or around the womb.
Endometriosis a condition where cells that line the womb end up in other areas of the body and reproductive system such as the ovaries fallopian tubes bladder and rectum.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) a bacterial infection of the female reproductive system. If detected early it can be treated with antibiotics. However if it spreads it can damage the womb and fallopian tubes resulting in long-term pain.
Adenomyosis a common condition where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the womb starts to grow within its muscular wall.
Prolapse of the uterus where the tissues and ligaments that support the womb become weak causing it to drop down from its normal position. Symptoms can include back pain a feeling that something is coming down out of your vagina leaking urine (urinary incontinence) and difficulty having sex. It can often occur as a result of childbirth.
Ovarian cancer or cancer of the womb or cervix.
In some cases removing the womb may be the only way of stopping the persistent heavy menstrual bleeding and pain that often accompanies these conditions.
If you decide to have the operation your consultant will advise you on the options available most suitable for you:
A vaginal hysterectomy involves removing the uterus (and fallopian tubes/ovaries if necessary) through the vagina and usually requires a hospital stay of 2 to 4 days.
An abdominal hysterectomy involves removing the uterus (and fallopian tubes/ovaries if necessary) through a large cut on the abdomen and usually requires a hospital stay of 2 to 4 days.
Laparoscopic hysterectomy involves making two or three small cuts to your abdomen through which a tube like camera will be passed to enable your surgeon to view the uterus (womb). Special surgical instruments are then used to remove the uterus (and fallopian tubes/ovaries if necessary). This technique is less invasive resulting in smaller scars with a quicker recovery period to the traditional abdominal hysterectomy and requires a hospital stay of around 1 to 2 days.
Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us that means you can choose the consultant you want to see and when you want. They’ll be with you every step of the way.
A hysterectomy is a major operation. The length of your stay in hospital will depend on which type of procedure you had as well as your overall health and fitness.
If you have had a vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy, you probably won’t need to stay in for more than four nights. With an abdominal hysterectomy you’re likely to be with us for 3-5 days.
It takes six to eight weeks to fully recover after an abdominal hysterectomy but it’s usually less after a vaginal or laparoscopy hysterectomy.
Whichever operation you have, you should take at least four weeks off work and rest as much as possible. You will be able to walk around after a day or two but don’t lift anything heavy or do any sporting activities until you’re fully recovered.
It’s important to do your physiotherapy exercises regularly, as this will help build your abdominal muscles back up. Your physio will probably also recommend you get back to walking and swimming once your wounds have healed.
Don’t drive until you’re comfortable wearing a seat belt – this could be up to eight weeks after surgery. Some car insurance companies require a certificate from your doctor stating that you are fit to drive.
Avoid sexual activity for at least six weeks and you might experience a temporary loss of interest in sex. This usually returns when you’re fully recovered and many women report that sexual activity and enjoyment actually improves after a hysterectomy.
Your surgeon will advise you when you can resume your normal activities. A full recovery can take up to 12 weeks.
If your ovaries were removed you may get menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy to help with this.
After your operation we will provide you with all the appropriate medication, physiotherapy exercises, advice on what you should and shouldn’t do and any other follow-up support you need.
Any sperm that enters your body will leave your body via your normal vaginal discharge.
A hysterectomy is a major surgery and is only recommended when other treatments for your condition have not been successful — in these cases, the benefits outweigh the risks. However, the main disadvantages of a hysterectomy are that you can no longer become pregnant and may go through early menopause (if you haven’t already gone through menopause). Early menopause can increase your risk of conditions such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Hysterectomy doesn’t cause weight loss. You may feel nauseous after your procedure and therefore not want to eat but this sensation should go away within a few days.
This depends on the type of hysterectomy you had. However, in most cases, you’ll need bed rest for the first two weeks after a hysterectomy — this may be shorter if you have a vaginal hysterectomy.