The emotional impact of hysterectomy

For the majority of women, hysterectomy is elective surgery. However, it seldom feels that way. As our post bag testifies, in many cases from the moment a woman presents at the doctors’ surgery with a gynaecological disorder, she “feels as if she’s on a conveyor belt with little information, choice or support”. Post-operatively, after a few days in hospital, she is passed medically fit and discharged to contemplate how this piece of elective surgery may affect the rest of her life and her relationships.

Removal of the uterus may be undertaken for a number of medical reasons although it is only performed to save life in relatively few cases. Whatever the primary indication, hysterectomy may be accompanied by alterations in sexuality that may occur for a variety of biological and psychological reasons. For instance, some research has shown the important role that the cervix plays in the experience of orgasm. This organ is routinely removed during total hysterectomy in the UK even when it is healthy. In other instances the symptoms necessitating hysterectomy may have disturbed the closeness of the relationship to such an extent that the couple find resumption of intimacy difficult when the physical problem has disappeared.

For some women, however, sexual problems occurring after the operation may be a continuation or further evolution of previously existing difficulties. Some women, who may have experienced years of pain or discomfort through their condition, may be so negatively conditioned towards sexual activity that they abstain or avoid sexual activity post-operatively.

However, for many women, the opposite reaction occurs. Freed of the symptoms as a result of surgery, a woman may find her sexual responsiveness reawakened. With myriad different reactions possible, it is perhaps not surprising that post-operatively there is an increased incidence of depression when compared with the after effects of other major surgery.

The success of the operation then depends upon two things, each as important as the surgeon’s skill; the woman’s self esteem and the partners reaction.

Research has shown a crucial link between information giving and the perception of being cared for by health professionals. Women who present their bodies to medics without knowledge or understanding of the what, why and after effects, suffer considerably more post-operative complications than the woman who insists on knowing as much as possible and feels in control at all times [except whilst under the anaesthetic of course!] After all, a woman is the greatest expert in the world on herself.

The woman’s husband or sexual partner is the second most important factor in determining the success of surgery. Most men (and quite a few women) don’t understand the nature of the female anatomy or the functional results of hysterectomy, and may harbour many misconceptions regarding sexuality after the operation. If the man equates removal of the uterus with loss of libido or diminished femininity, he may inadvertently avoid sexual interaction with her. Men who appear indifferent to uterine removal, may actually feel anxious or guilty about subsequent sexual activity with their partner.

A hysterectomy can be seen as a unifying experience, one that the couple face together, talking and listening to each others needs, communicating their feelings as they change day by day.

With the right support network in place, which should include her partner as well as medical staff, there is no reason why a woman’s sexual function cannot improve following recuperation from the operation. If health-care professionals take the time that is necessary to assuage fears and doubts regarding such operations and provide a reasonable amount of factual information to both the woman and her sexual partner, few sexual difficulties will ensue postoperatively. However, whilst counselling is routine prior to sterilisation or vasectomy, no such norm exists for hysterectomies. As with all types of surgery that may have an impact on sexuality, such counselling ought to be a routine part of the care for a hysterectomy patient.

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:

57 thoughts on “The emotional impact of hysterectomy

  1. I was already taking HRT (estrogen and testosterone )before my hysterectomy, but noticed I needed more estrogen afterward. So, in spite of my doctors constantly trying to lower my hormone levels, i take the amount I feel good at. Love my hysterectomy, and I love my HRT! Libido is great, life looks rosy and I have lots of energy. It helps my immune system, and now that my faulty uterus is gone, I’m free of that drudgery and pain.

  2. I feel such a fraud writing in. I’m 8 weeks post op. Had the all clear fm my Gyne consultant but I just cannot move on. I am constently checking my wound ( i had slight tear but nothing big) i am convinced it is tearing. Every ache and pain fills me with dread. I think I’m going mad

  3. I had my hysterectomy 7 days ago, cervix uterus tubes and ovaries removed due to grade 4 endometriosis. I am 41 and been suffering for many years with my condition. I welcomed the op and couldn’t wait to start my ‘new life’.
    Op went well home after two days. I have a toddler 14 year old and supportive husband at home. I have and still am struggling with my bowels chronic pain from not being able to go is really holding me back. My pico negative pressure dressing was removed today replaced with a basic dressing. I have not slept since op due to finding comfy position having to sit up in bed, tonight I tried my side (preferred) I woke an hour later to find my dressing was full of blood. Husband changed it at 12.30am. I am now sat awake crying. I understand my hormones are not working due to removal of ovaries however I have just laid there whilst my husband cleaned and redressed my wound I am tired of the pain tired of trying to be positive in front of others tired of laying awake every night tired of feeling no longer a woman. I have no dignity any movements I make are undignified and show me to be pathetic. My husband hasseen far to much of me than I would like. I am worried about getting an infection I am worried that my back will ache forever due to spinal. I am worried that I am no good to anyone. I have not put my son to bed now for over a week, he is going to his father for comfort. I wish I had not had the op, I am very vulnerable and am so sad.

  4. Hello! I just wanted to WARN everyone!
    I had surgery 5 days ago and everything came out… the pain level is very tolerable but my soul feels like its shriveling up in my body and dying away…. lots of panic and anxiety attacks and believes that I won’t be here for the next day to see my children and my family…. it feels to me lika a window to HELL!!!!
    I did research before the operation and I also talked to a lot of women…I have ran into lots of my Girl-friends that had a hysterectomy done too and they loved it…. so I automatically thought that would be the same for me…. oh no not me ! I had to be the one that is walking through the valley of death and I’M AFRAID OF THE EVIL…. BE CAREFUL! If you have a bad feeling then don’t do the surgery!!!! I didn’t listen to my inner voice and made the biggest mistake in my life…. what good is a healthier body when the soul in it dies????

  5. Hi Ladies,
    I went to hospital to get my coil changed as the Dr couldn’t do it as I had a lot of blood,(but I kind of thought that something wasn’t right as I never had a period with the coil then last year I had spots or bled but not like a period and bled after sex but when I asked the doctor if maybe I was going through the start of the change, I felt as if they had just pushed me away not giving me answers), anyway I was so lucky that the nurse that was attending to me that day took a biopsy that was in June. Received a letter to let me know everything seemed fine then a week later got a letter to ask me to go back in only to be told I had cervical cancer. I did cry when told but felt numb, didn’t know how I was meant to feel. I had more appointments for scans biopsy’s and examinations and I really cant fault the NHS as every week I had some kind of appointment. Went into see the consultant that was going to operate on me at beginning of September thinking Id be operated on in a month or 2 only to be told I was to go in on the 9th to be operated on the 10th for a radical hysterectomy everything removed, done by keyhole, all the staff were just amazing. Got out the next day just stayed with my parents as they live in a bungalow and my other half works down south so mum helped me. I’m lucky to have 2 grown up kids and feel for all the young ladies that have gone through this and aren’t able to experience having kids of their own.
    The following week I was told cancer was 50% in the cervix and the cells hadn’t opened then was told I didn’t need further treatment I just feel so relieved and grateful.
    But since coming home the menopause has started, the hot flushes which I really don’t like but on the grand scheme of things I cant complain, I’d rather have that than the worse case scenario..(hope that’s the right spelling). I also get a bit light headiness at times the hot flushes my hands get so wet you’d think I’ve just washed my hands.. I have become very weepy too. Sometimes I feel so alone and don’t really want to talk to my family about it as kids too young (15 & 20) and my mum just goes on about her experience. I do have an appointment with the Cancer councillor at end of November then I see the consultant at beginning of December.
    Sorry if I’ve prattled on… Good luck to everyone that is waiting on results or going for treatments Stay positive and I hope this has helped a little?!
    Love & Best Wishes to All You Brave Women x

  6. been reading up on this the last few wks as my wife had it done about 5months ago & now iam waiting for the diverse papers to come ! I cant belive a op to make her better as chaged her so much, b4 the op she was lovley easy going & we loved each other very much but all that as gone now she up & left me she been of with other men & she hates me & i mean hates me & iam having a hard job job dealing with it as I took a vow to look after her but iam the last person she wants near her why why as the love for me trned to hate ?

  7. Hello everyone, I hope this finds everyone doing well. I am 67 yrs old and had a complete hysterectomy on Sept 23rd. Prior to that I had a huge fibroid in my uterus that showed pre cancerous cells so the Dr thought it best to have the hysterectomy. I had the robot assisted surgery where they (were supposed to make 3 tiny incisions) however, for some reason they had to make 4 little incisions. I thought I was doing ok, yes the pain (more like soreness) was and has been tough, but today I got out of bed and went to let my dogs out and noticed the rug runner was all messed up, I looked around my house and just started to cry. I am a finicky housekeeper, everything has a place and needs to be in it’s place. My husband, bless his soul, works a full time job and then has to come home to take care of me so I don’t nag him about getting things done around the house that I would normally do. I want to let it go and say “I don’t care what my house looks like”, but it’s hard. His idea of cooking dinner is ordering out, I cannot tell you how tired I am of fast food..lol Then I realized, I don’t think my emotions today have anything to do with my disheveled house, it’s more about my hormones or the lack thereof. I also have a very very long history of kidney stone surgeries, as a matter of fact my hysterectomy was postponed because I had to have a kidney stone surgery 2 weeks prior to my hysto. I have had 14 kidney stone surgeries just in the last two years, then now this hysterectomy. So it’s been a few years since I have felt really really good. I’m not a patient person at all, I want to feel good NOW and I know that’s just not the case. I have to take things slowly, but in my head I’m like when does this end? I try to be strong and think that there are people out there that are in far worse shape than I am and to stop complaining, but sometimes, like today, it just got the best of me. My Dr doesn’t want to put me on HRT just yet, not sure why, I have a follow up appointment with him tomorrow and I will ask him about it then. I don’t want to take antidepressants, I hate anything that gives me awful side affects, but I really don’t want to become and emotional mess like I am today. I just feel like my emotions are all over the place right now, I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel after having this surgery, I don’t know how long I’m supposed to feel bad, I don’t know what to expect from the future after this surgery. My Dr is awesome, I like him, but he’s one of those that only tells you things on a need to know basis. I ask a lot of questions which I feel I have the right to do when you are messing with my body, but I’m the type that needs answers. A good example of that is the day after my surgery I asked him why 4 incisions instead of 3, his answer was, “I needed a helper” what does that even mean, a helper for what? So tomorrow I will ask him the same question and see if I can finally get an answer..TBD Well, I guess I’m done here, I just needed to vent I think, the tears have dried up but they aren’t far away, guess this is just how my day is going to go and I have to accept it. I do wish all of you the very best in your recovery and have enjoyed reading all your posts. God Bless you All.

  8. Grateful to have found this thread of women, talking about post-op experiences. I have had my hysterectomy in two stages. First, several years ago, my uterus was taken out. I was 57 so I was not having children. Still, there was grief.
    I wasn’t so much surprised by it… as I was surprised by the rage that showed up in my pelvic floor a few years later. It has taken me on a journey that is still ongoing. Last week I had my ovaries and fillopian tubes removed. I had a positive OVA-1 test, which indicates the possibility to ovarian cancer.
    It, thankfully, was not cancer. It was a cyst that was LARGER than my little ovary! And shaped like an angry little uterus, full of endomitriosis-material. Good gosh!
    So, now, fourth day since surgery and I had the hubris to think I would be back in the office Tuesday. I doubt my week will look anything like I thought.
    The gas they fill the gut up with, to see the organs, seeped into the layers by the fascia and I am swollen up as if I were five months pregnant on the right side.
    And it hurts, of course.
    I am unsure when I am trying to be a hero and when I am just complaining.

    I think I need to give myself a wider berth for healing. My partial hysterectomy did not have the complication of this huge cyst coming out. The scar is wider than any other. I was back on my horse, literally, two weeks post-op last time. Somehow, I doubt this is going to be the same course of healing.
    I want to stay out of the drama and neurotic suffering and be grateful IT IS NOT CANCER! I am not preparing to undergo chemotherapy. I am so fortunate. It may take two or three weeks for the swelling to go down, maybe longer, but I can work with this and not against it.

    Thank you all for listening. I hope you have mended since you last wrote and that you received the support you needed.

  9. I feel relieved to know I am not alone. I am 40 and just had a vaginal hysterectomy (a little more than two weeks ago). My ovaries were not removed and I have been surprised by my emotional state. Physically I feel okay; low energy and tired, but no pain. Emotionally is another story. I feel depressed, filled with anxiety, completely overwhelmed by everything. I even question how I have handled everything before…it all seems like too much.

    What I find interesting is that while I never gave birth, I have three adopted children. I have never had more than a passing interest in having babies. So while it makes sense that one would be “mourning” the loss of their fertility, in my case it seems odd. It is not like I was interested in my fertility before!

    I am avoiding everything. I have one friend I am okay being around but that is it. Otherwise it is just my partner and my kids/stepkids. and I am letting my 8 and 10 year olds watch a lot of tv. I just can’t deal.

  10. Hello,

    I am 26 years old. Last month I had my second child. my first is 7. I had a crazy pregnancy. Constantly having bad stomach pain, not associated with normal pregnancy pains. No one knew why. when I was 34 weeks the OB noticed babies tummy was small, in the 5% range. after going to a specialist, they agreed baby wasnt growing and it was better to give birth. So I had a CSection at 37 to the day. We were already planning a CSection and I was going to get my tubes cut.

    Well during the surgery the OB found that the placenta grew in to the muscle of my uterus. I had to have it removed. I was mentally prepared for the tubes but I am having a hard time dealing with the hysterectomy. I feel I dont have a right to be upset since I was planning on not having children anymore. Most days I am fine, but I have really bad down days and dont know how to feel.

    I have not found anyone my age who has had a hysterectomy. Everyone is a lot older and or all I get is pitty conversations. I have not told anyone other then my inlaws and a couple of friends who are like sisters. My husband is doing his best but its not the same.

    I dont feel the need to go to a therapist or get happy pills. Not sure what to do.

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