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.

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:

30 thoughts on “The unkindest cut of all – removal of the cervix

  1. I had my cervix removed 3 months ago because they said I had cancer cells.When I had my check up after 7 weeks the doctor said that although she had not done the operation it had been done well. I did not try to have sex until two weeks ago giving plenty of time to heal as my husband was away but oh what a disaster ! The entrance to my vagina hurt and further up. We tried two other positions with the same results then realised that I was bleeding at the entrance. My My doctor has given me a swob test to see if there is any infection but I know that something is not as it should be and will be asking for a referral back to the surgeon. This is making me very depressed as I thought my problems where sorted.

  2. I had a total hysterectomy and prolapse repair at the same time in 2012. Since then, due to initial internal bleeding following the op.and the gynaecologist stitching everything too tight, not only is my vagina shortened, but also so narrowed I have been unable to have intercourse. 4 years down the line, and 5 operations later, dilators used, scar tissue removed, steroid injections given etc….although better than it was, still not usable. I have been depressed about this despite my husband being very patient and understanding. Approached a “no win no fee” lawyer, but was told that since the op was done privately it would be expensive to prove he was at fault and not worth their while taking the case on. I feel robbed of being a proper woman as well as any compensation I should have been due for what I considered to be a botched operation. I still have more work to be done, and if this doesn’t work my only option to get a fairly “normal” vagina I can use is plastic surgery at my cost it would appear. I am finding this difficult to write but hope anyone considering gynae. surgery will think very carefully before getting it done unless the condition is life threatining.

    1. I feel your pain Janet , I had my uterus and tubes taken 3 years ago, everything was great after it , no probs,
      went to another Gyno in April after my GP referred me for potential endo etc, Gyno ended up removing my cervix, has stitched me far to tight and has left me in pain and unable to have any sexual intercourse whats so ever due the excruciating pain that i get, Im basically on pain meds all day everyday , and all the gyno could say was u need to use Dilators , I went back to another Gyno for second opinion and he was shocked that my cervix was removed when this should of been exploration surgery to determined where my pain was coming from , ( was not coming from my cervix ) I feel robbed … I’m angry … and i have lost myself…. I wish i could turn back time , this would never have happened ..

    2. wow, it’s like we’re both living the exact same nightmare from the unneccessary removal of my healthy cervice during a hysterectomy. Not only is my vagina severly shortened and narrowed, i was also stitched way too tight. As a woman who’s about to turn 60, my vagina looks like that of a child. My labia and vagina and clitoris are tucked so far up and in that i no longer resemble a grown woman . My husband and i haven’t been able to have sex because of all of this. And what really gets me is that before my hysterectomy, my doctor asked me if i wanted my cervice removed or not!! I said that it being healthy why remove it. His answer was to put the scare of cervical cancer possibly occuring in the future. You don’t need it anymore so i suggest we just remove it along with everything else for good measure. If i hadn’t been such an emotional wreck from being scared of having major surgery and was thinking with a clear head, I would have called our insurance company and told them how he insisted, even when i said repeatly that i did not want the davinci surgery and how defensive he became and the way he verbally belittled me for questioning his judgement. And on the removal and using the davinci robot even though he couldn’t give me any statistical pros because it was so new. He just used me and other women to make the hospital big bucks for this new surgery. And it also elated his ego for doing so for the hospital. My life was drastically altered that day he performed the surgery. Without my healthy cervice i was left with no muscles to do kegels, my bladder constantly leaks and i have to wear poise bladder pads. the gigantic ones at bedtime. My bowel movements have never been right since then and basically i’m seeing a therapist and psychiatrist and am on meds for depresion and all of the other life changes that i have been made to live with day in and day out. Not to mention that my husband of 30 years had an affair with one of my so cakled friends. He had bought a new phone and i said that i wanted his old phone cause it was still like brand new. But when he came home from phone mart they hadn’t cleared out any of his contacts or texts. And thats how i found all of this out. Texts between them saying how much he missed and loved her, her sending him love songs. I apologize for rambling on and on, but I DO FEEL YOUR PAIN AND SHAME AND HELPLESSNESS my dear. GOD bless you and all of the others who have had to bear this cross.♥

  3. Thanks for your article. I’m 61, have never gone through menopause, and have been bleeding constantly for 4 years. At first, it wasn’t that bad and, since my mother didn’t go through menopause until 67, I thought I just had to put up with it. About two years ago, I started having bleeds so heavy that I gave up pads and started tearing bath towels in half. Often, I would overflow those. There were also clots, a few of which I measured, which were as much as 3 ounces. I told my mother, who insisted it wasn’t any worse than what she had, and my doctor, who apparently thought I was wildly exaggerating. Because my only income came to an abrupt end, and I live in America, I haven’t had health insurance for a long time. I cannot afford tests and have to struggle to pay for mandatory doc visits and prescriptions for other health problems.

    Last week, I bled like crazy. Where I’ve had a lot of weakness and fallen, for a long time, that day, I couldn’t make it more than 2 or 3 steps without blacking out. My son was coming, anyway, to take me to an appointment. Had he not, I would probably have bled to death. He took me right to the ER. My hem was 4, when normal is 12-16. After six transfusions over 12 hours, I was up to 10. Ultrasound showed tumors in my uterus. ER doc said it looks like fibroids but the OB/GYN talked like it was cancer. I think the ER doc was probably right, but now I have to go to a cancer specialist.

    I do NOT want to have anything removed that doesn’t need to be removed. I haven’t met with the cancer specialist, but I am going to tell him that he will have to give me some definite evidence that anything besides my uterus and tubes should come out. I didn’t even know there was an option of leaving the cervix until a friend told me about the problems she and some friends have had from losing their cervices, and suggested I consider keeping mine. I’m about as low risk for cervical cancer as anyone there is. I just hope the doc doesn’t give me a hard time about it! It doesn’t help that I have a longstanding mistrust of doctors.

    Anyway, your article has made me feel a bit bolder, so thank you!

  4. I have read so many sad things I wanted to sharel my experience. I am 45 and had a TAH and BSO in other words uterus, tubes and ovaries removed oh and cervix. This was carried out 7 weeks ago now. I went for my 6 week check last week and was told I could return to work, I am a gardener. This last week has been fantastic, I am working again, mowing lawns, lifting mower from car, digging etc etc etc. I can honestly say I feel like I never had an operation!!! I am able to have sex again which initially hurt but now great! My experience has been so positive I am over the moon.

    1. Fantastic to hear a positive side to this…im waiting for my date to come through the post for my hysterectomy and I was so shocked to read they remove the cervix. I just hope I’m as lucky after the op as you have been 🙂 good luck with the future and take care

      Debi aged 46 xx

  5. I had my uterus out 2 yeas ago and now because of abnormal paps and so much pain and bleeding I am having my cervix Re moved as well. 30 years old. Does anyone have any recommendations on the healing process? Tight or lose clothing or things to avoid or do? Please help! Thanks 🙂

  6. I have endometrial hyperplasia with atypical and advised to have a full hysterectomy, I am 57 and post menopausal, I have no symptoms just a light bleed I do not want this surgery but am being given every scare possible about these pre cancerous cells and the risk anyone gone through the same and managed to avoid this butchery

    1. Don’t be rushed into anything. You do Not need a Total Hysterectomy unless you have not had smears ( pre cancerous cells are picked up) or you actually have Ovarian Cancer. I have a large fibroid and I refused it altogether due to the consent form allowing him to remove healthy organs for cancer prevention which I was not willing to do. Also I just didn’t think it was necessary and I had a UFE done there is loads online about what I had done

      Don’t be pushed by a Gynocolgist they think women over a certain age should not be having sex so therefore don’t need their cervix and ovaries.

  7. I felt I should comment after a friend saw this site and was scared. I had a full hysterectomy in 2008 (except I stil have one ovary) I was 46 married and scared. I had the best doctor who had also delivered one of my kids. I was suffering from fibroids and heavy bleeding. Yes, it was painful and took about 3-6 months to get back to 100%. I got my sex drive back and it was great because no periods, no cramps, and no pain. I did get divorced in 2012 by not due to that. I have had 2 boyfriends since, and the sex was and is great!! To those of you that are afraid, don’t be! Everyone is different and my doctor had told me that too. You have to stay patient, positive, and remember to give yourself time to heal.

  8. I’m 55 yrs old and had a partial hysterectomy 3yrs ago and sex is great when i get it and very horny when i don’t, my sex life seems to get more higher as i get more seasoned in age

    1. Im 55 yrs old i have 8cm cyst which requires a hysterectomy due to firbroids Due to this hysterectomy she telling me to remove my cer vic do suggest I do that since ur my age.

  9. I’ve had the most wonderful orgasms since having my hysterectomy in 1999.

  10. I’m 12 weeks post surgery, having had ovaries, uterus and cervix removed and my bladder dissected in 2 places. I suffered for years with ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, endometriosis, flooding periods and anaemia. I felt so much better just 3 days post surgery and managed pain relief with paracetamol only. I feel like I have a better life than pre surgery. I can exercise, dance, walk, go out without needing to no more than 30 mins away from the loo. My healing has been remarkably quick – all down to an amazing surgeon. My sex life is 100 times better and orgasms are back to the intensity that they were in my 20s. I feel truly blessed with my new lease of life and only wish I’d had the op done sooner!

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