The Unkindest Cut of All – removal of the cervix

Some are sad. Some are horrific. And some are just plain inept. These stories started with a signature on the bottom of a consent form that gave license to remove organs and tissue believed to be contributing to the problem. The woman had her chance to ask questions but what questions can you ask if you know nothing about the operation or its effects. Of the 55,000 hysterectomies performed every year in the UK, the vast majority are ‘total’. This means that the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix are removed. There may also be some shortening/scarring of the vagina and occasionally accidental damage to the bowel (due to its physical proximity to the cervix).

In France fewer hysterectomies are performed per head of population since many gynaecological problems are dealt with through less radical operations. Unlike the UK, most hysterectomies that are performed are sub-total i.e. they leave a perfectly healthy cervix in place where there are no medical reasons for its removal. As a consequence the issues of vaginal shortening or scarring don’t arise and accidental damage to the bowel is rare. But perhaps there is a more profound reason for leaving a perfectly health cervix in place. The Hysterectomy Association receives hundreds of letters about another form of damage – damage to the couple’s physical relationship. Some medical research is only now being undertaken into the effects of hysterectomy, particularly the removal of the cervix, on the intensity and even the capability of achieving orgasm. Generally, an orgasm will depend on three things, how you feel emotionally about yourself and your partner at the time, the amount and quality of foreplay and once above the ‘orgasmic threshold’ the amount and quality of clitoral stimulation. As orgasm approaches, the padded third of the vaginal barrel grips the penis and the musculature of the pelvic muscles, within which the cervix resides, go into mild spasm. This is followed by a series of rhythmic convulsive contractions occurring at one second intervals. The clenching and unclenching of the pelvic muscles is accompanied by subjective feelings of intense pleasure known as orgasm. Where the cervix is removed and the vagina shortened or scarred, there can be a considerable reduction in the orgasmic intensity for both the woman and her partner.

It has been suggested that the rationale behind total hysterectomies as opposed to sub-total is upon grounds of training, cost and/or ignorance. Can it be possible that predominately male gynecologists are ignorant of the effect that unnecessary removal of healthy organs has upon a woman’s sexuality? In one ‘Woman’s Hour’ programme, one consultant gynecologist was amazed that a 59 year old woman should be concerned about the effect of hysterectomy on her sex life, as if she should be bothered at that age!

It has been very difficult to write this article. I am aware that reading it should perhaps carry a health warning since a major indicator of the success of any major surgery is the psychological preparedness of the patient. The psychology of sexuality is even more fragile. However, I feel that the need justifies the means and risks involved so that the thousands of women considering hysterectomy can insist upon full information provision before signing the consent form.

(John Parkinson-Hardman is a relate trained counsellor.)

Recommended Reading:

star buy Losing the Woman Within – £5.50. is essential reading for everyone who feels they are alone and emotional following a hysterectomy.

Recommended Resources:

5 thoughts on “The Unkindest Cut of All – removal of the cervix

  1. Andrea

    I feel so bad for all the women that have suffered so much after there surgery . I have no complaints I had a wonderful doctor that helped me because I was in so much pain that I could barely walk . My stomach was so bloated , I had to wear loose clothing . I actually thought I was going to die because my condition was just getting worse I could not stand to cook dinner without having a chair next to stove to sit down n rest . My uterus was attached to my stomach lining the doc did not knw that until he opened me up n he took out my cervix because he said he was bad . I have no uterus or cervix n so far my life has been great ! It’s been 4 yrs I feel like I got my life back . I could stand all day , I could exercise , jump , run …. All I could not do before surgery . My sex life is at it’s best my climax is beautiful . I’m so thankful that all that needed to come out was taken out . I know it all depends on the doc . Maybe research before allowing anyone to touch you . Especially that area of your body that is a huge part of you .

  2. Aniseed

    Just been told I need a hysterectomy so reading this has been a real eye opener and I thank you sincerely for your straight forward explanations and information. I will now go fully armed when I see my gynae. Thanks.

  3. LEATHERLADY SAM

    I was told i had fibroids in my uterus & needed a hysterectomy. The only other. Thing that was talked about were my ovaries, that i had been having cysts on since i had my son in 83. I started perimenopause at 35 & thank god my Dr treated my symptoms, life was great!

    I had not had sex in 12 years by the time i was 36. I ended up homeless &before that i met a man, worse thing to happen to me but, we became sexually involved he moved it. I started having bleeding during or after sex which was not normal. For me! I was taking depo shots for the ovarian cysts, they pretty much stopped the cysts as well as all bleeding! Until I unknowingly developed the fibroid cysts. Dr i had just met told me i had to stop my hormone therapy before he would do surgery, to find out if my ovaries worked or not.

    I was barely awake after surgery & i was told i had to sign dome paperwork. I was drugged & signed without question!
    I signed giving my permission to have b my cervix & appendix removed! Later the Dr comes in & told me he could not do the bikini cut cause my appendix looked bad. I asked if it was, he said no.

    I did not know my cervix had been removed for 3 to 5 years! I was so mad cause my morphine pump did not work. It took me 12 hours & the Dr to come back to talk after my yelling in pain. He had probably had just delivered a baby for him coming to see me. I was correct he ordered a different machine & things were better. I had been up to the bathroom several times after surgery without any pain meds!

    I started to get vaginal infections, no matter if i had a sexual partner or not but mostly when i had a partner. Eventually I started having incontinence. Saw a urologist & i had a chronic uti, 1 month on 1 pill s day for the uti cause I’m allergic to all antibiotics!

    Then he catheterised me to prove my incontinence which did not because i was moving as he wanted me to not my normal ways of moving, then he catheterised me a second time & even after he claimed to numbed me that catheter hurt do bad the whole office heard me!! He finally decided he had no reason for the catheter to cause me so much pain but i did have a prolapsed bladder, probably from my cervix removal. That the cervix helped to keep the bladder & bowels in place!

    Thank god I did not let him do surgery of putting bladder sling, which now are being recalled for causing severe damage to bring a class action law suit! I have to push my own bowel back inside of myself every time i get a flare up of my ibs!
    I do not think if the cervix is not cancerous leave it in place!!! I do not have the b muscle strength for my partner to get his best pleasure from me during sex, a cock ring helps him! But I feel inferior to. Anyone sexually cause i was butch e red!!! I wish I could sue the sob for butchering me up!!! I was told that it is common practise to remove the appendix now but not to remove the ovaries even if you had cysts for 25 years!! The removal of cervix is the last thing anyone remove a cervix unless it is cancerous!!!

  4. kai

    I wish I would have read this beforehand partial hysterectomy. It was recommended by my Dr. to have my cervix removed along with my uterus. He said if I had it removed I wouldn’t have to have paps anymore, and I would still have light bleeding monthly. He said sex would be the same. It’s not! My vaginal canal is much shorter so sex is painful every time. :(

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