If your doctor recently mentioned a hysterectomy, you may be feeling confused or scared. Fortunately, knowing the answers to some common questions can help put your mind at ease and better prepare you for what comes next.
What Is a Hysterectomy?
There are a couple different kinds of hysterectomies – a partial surgery involves removal of the uterus, while a total hysterectomy requires removal of the uterus and cervical tissue, possibly accompanied by the removal of the fallopian tubes or ovaries. There are several reasons why your doctor might recommend a hysterectomy; certain kinds of cancer, endometriosis, excessive bleeding, and fibroids are some of the most common reasons a doctor may suggest a woman have one.
What Can I Expect From Surgery?
About 1/3 of American women have a hysterectomy by age 60, so this is a surgery most doctors feel comfortable suggesting for women. There are two methods for completing a hysterectomy. The most common is through a cut in the abdomen (abdominal hysterectomy), though in some cases your doctor may be able to perform a vaginal hysterectomy. The type of surgery your doctor performs will be based on the underlying reason for surgery. Abdominal hysterectomies are more likely but require a longer recovery time.
What Are the Risks of Surgery?
Since it is so common, a hysterectomy is one of the safest surgical procedures. Like any surgery, however, it has risks. Some include:
- Fever or infection.
- Bleeding during or after surgery.
- Blood clots in the deep veins that can travel to the lungs.
- Breathing problems related to anesthesia.
- Injury to the urinary tract or other structures.
Your doctor will review the benefits and risks with you before surgery. Complications are more likely to occur following an abdominal hysterectomy. Some women are at higher risk for complications than others, so be sure to review your medical history with your doctor before any procedure.
What Is the Recovery Process Like?
Following your hysterectomy, you may need to stay in the hospital for up to a few days. The length of your stay will depend on the type of surgery and your risk of surgical complications. Your medical team will likely urge you to walk around as soon as possible following surgery, as this will help prevent the development of blood clots.
You can expect some level of discomfort for a few days following the surgery. You will receive medication to control the pain. You can also expect some vaginal bleeding and discharge for a few days. Constipation is another common side effect of surgery, and you may find it difficult to empty your bladder for a few days, too.