Caring for Your Pelvic Floor after a Hysterectomy

While it is true that women undergo a hysterectomy for a variety of reasons, including severe cases of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) also known as genitourinary prolapse—it is also true that having a hysterectomy can contribute to the development of prolapse. More than 10 percent of women who have a hysterectomy experience varying degrees of prolapse symptoms.

hysterectomy associationRemoving the uterus can affect the surrounding tissues and organs, which all work together to maintain proper placement in the pelvis. Prolapse occurs when the pelvic organs are not adequately supported by the pelvic floor and shift downward, out of position.

If prolapse symptoms are mild, women may not require treatment. Women with severe symptoms of prolapse may experience pain or pressure in the abdomen or low back, incontinence or constipation, pain during sex, the inability to insert or keep a tampon in place, or the presence of prolapsed pelvic organs protruding into the vagina. These symptoms often require surgery.

Vaginal Vault Prolapse

The pelvic organs and tissues are linked by connective, supportive tissues that attach them to the pelvic bone structure. When a hysterectomy is performed and the uterus is removed, this structure becomes vulnerable, as weakening support tissues pull away and other pelvic organs, like the bladder, cervix or rectum, start to collapse into the vagina.

Women who have had a hysterectomy are prone to a specific type of prolapse known as vaginal vault prolapse, which refers to the top portion of the vagina (vaginal vault) collapsing into itself. When vaginal vault prolapse is severe, the vagina begins to turn itself inside out, something that is both palpable and visible for women.

Surgery can repair the pelvic floor and ease the symptoms of prolapse. A device called transvaginal mesh has been used in many pelvic floor repairs. Unfortunately, it has been linked to painful complications like mesh erosion, organ perforation and sexual dysfunction that can require multiple revision surgeries to correct.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that procedures that do not use mesh can be equally effective in repairing the pelvic floor and reducing prolapse symptoms. All surgery has risks, and women should discuss the safest surgical options with their doctor.

Non-Surgical Treatments

After a hysterectomy, women may wish to consult a physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic health. Physiotherapists use techniques like biofeedback therapy to help women isolate the pelvic floor muscles and learn how to properly strengthen them.

Physiotherapists may also use pelvic massage, manual stimulation and special weights. Most will suggest that women begin a daily routine of Kegel exercises. These contractions of the pelvic floor muscles together and upward are one of the most effective ways to strengthen the pelvic floor.

High-impact activities can further weaken the pelvic floor, but exercise is important. Women should consider exercises like yoga or Pilates, which strengthen the pelvic floor, build core strength and correct posture.

After a hysterectomy, women should do their best to avoid excessive coughing, heavy lifting or frequently straining to produce a bowel movement, as these can weaken the pelvic floor. Being overweight or obese increases pressure on the pelvic floor, so women should take steps to manage body weight.

Doctors may suggest the use of a vaginal pessary. A pessary is a small device fitted and inserted by a doctor to act as support for the vaginal vault and pelvic floor.

Linda Grayling is a content writer for Drugwatch.com. She educates the public about dangerous prescription drugs and defective medical devices.

6 thoughts on “Caring for Your Pelvic Floor after a Hysterectomy

  1. Gilly Scott

    I am having an abdominal hysterectomy for a fibroid the size of a 20 week pregnancy. I have a choice to keep my Fallopian tubes and ovaries, what should I consider and why when making my choice to remove then or not? I am 50
    Gilly

  2. Grace

    I had a radical hysterectomy with bilateral opherectomy 6 months ago for precancerous situation. (Hope I got that right) . Anyway sex has been painful for 3 months ish but strangely not before then. I presumed that maybe everything was numb initially hence not feeling any discomfort. I went for my 6 month smear test and nearly jumped off the couch in pain and the doctor said I have a lump on the scar. Another doctor had a look and they both said whatever it is it needs to come out. So a hospital referral has been done. I don’t for a second believe this is sinister because all was precancerous and my surgeon took everything that looked even remotely suspicious. My question is, what could this possibly be?
    Thank you for your time. X

  3. Sally Gregory

    I had a hysterectomy for a prolapsed womb 18 months ago as well as a cystocele repair for a prolapse front vaginal wall. Only a few weeks after this surgery the back vaginal wall prolapsed and I had to have another major operation to repair this. It was not severe at the time of the hysterectomy but this surgery caused it to worsen. I was badly damaged after 2 ventouse deliveries and an 8lb baby. The retrocele surgery was excrutiatingly painful and even now a year later sex is still painful, apparently it can take upto 18 months for this pain to go away. Psychologically it has been the hardest thing to deal with and the affects on my sex life at times devastating. I had no choice but to have this surgery but nobody warned me just how awful it would be. I kept my ovaries but they failed within months of the surgery and HRT has not been straightforward causing breast pain and high blood pressure. I also completely lost my sex drive which was very upsetting and this was due to non existent testosterone levels. Treatment for this is not licensed on the NHS and I still see my lovely private consultant who also did both of my operations. It has been a very tough journey and I have had many low times but slowly I am getting there.

  4. Deborah

    I have just read your article on caring for your pelvic floor after a hysterectomy and am quite shocked at what i have read. I was operated on in 2010 as I had both a vaginal and rectal prolapse but no problems with my womb. My womb was so highly positioned that at one point a doctor asked me if i had already had a hysterectomy! However I was given a hysterectomy at the same time as the the prolapses were seen to as the consultant informed me that as i had had prolapses the womb was also likely to prolapse at some time in the future. There was nothing to indicate that this was or would happen as i had no problems with my womb but this was decided so that i did not have to undergo surgery again at a later stage. However reading your article you suggest that there is a chance that I will prolapse due to the womb being removed – horror!!! Why don’t they tell you this? I did not enter into my surgery willingly and had discussed my reasons for not wanting an uneccessary hysterectomy but was still informed that this would be best for the future!!

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