Hysterectomy

Removing the womb and possibly ovaries

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that may be required when there is no other alternative and/or previous treatments have failed e.g. for endometriosis, tumours, abnormal cells in the uterus, fibroids and pelvic floor problems. The surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic or epidural. It requires a hospital admission and it takes 4-8 weeks to recover.

Usually, the cervix (neck of the womb) and the womb are removed. If the cervix is left intact, there is a 10 per cent chance of some bleeding at the times you would normally have your periods as the endometrium (womb lining) will remain in the cervix. If your cervix is removed, you will no longer be at risk of cervical cancer, so won’t need cervical smears.

The risks of the procedure are comparable to those of any other complex abdominal surgery, for example, infections, bleeding, blood clots, damage to intestines and/or other internal organs.

Immediate menopause

Sometimes the ovaries are also removed in a hysterectomy. This greatly reduces the risk of cancer, but will affect your hormone levels. You will begin the menopause immediately and its associated symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, dizziness and night sweats. You may require hormonal treatment.

Types of hysterectomy

There are various surgical techniques for performing a hysterectomy. These are:

1. Vaginal hysterectomy

With this method, the uterus (womb) and the cervix (neck of the womb) are removed via the vagina. This technique is preferred because there are no visible scars and the recovery period is shorter than for the other methods, however it does not always work and is only possible if the uterus is not too big.

2. Key hole surgery

During keyhole surgery (a laparoscopic operation) a number of incisions are made in the stomach. These are used to insert a laparoscope, which allows the surgeon to monitor the operation on a screen. The uterus (womb) is removed in sections via the laparoscope or the vagina. The risk of infection is lower than with the standard method of surgery and the recovery time is shorter in comparison. The likelihood of permanent scars is also reduced.

3. Abdominal hysterectomy

With this method, the uterus (womb) is removed via an incision in the abdomen, just above the pubic bone. That horizontal incision is about 15cm long and can cause an unsightly scar. Sometimes a vertical scar is also necessary, for example, if the uterus is large or if cervical cancer has been diagnosed. The risk of complications is highest with this method, and the recovery period is the longest.

Is a hysterectomy right for you?

In the case of benign conditions, it is important to consider the pros and cons of a hysterectomy carefully and explore other treatment options before making a decision. Thanks to innovative new treatment techniques e.g. endometrial ablation, a hysterectomy is not always necessary for heavy periods.

Benefits

  • Stops menstruation
  • Permanent solution

Disadvantages

  • Major surgery with associated risks
  • Requires general anaesthetic
  • Can cause premature menopause
  • Cannot be reversed
  • Hormone therapy is sometimes required

Features

  • For

    Uterine complaints

  • Treatment type

    Major operation

  • Treatment duration

    – 1 hour (vaginal surgery)
    – 2 hours (keyhole surgery)

  • Conception

    No longer possible

  • Recovery time

    4-8 weeks

  • Success rate

    100%

Frequently Asked Questions about Heavy periods

  • What is a hysterectomy?

    A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that may be required when there is no other alternative and/or previous treatments have failed e.g. for endometriosis, tumours, abnormal cells in the uterus, fibroids and pelvic floor problems. Usually, the cervix (neck of the womb) and the womb are removed. If the cervix is left intact, there is a 10 per cent chance of some bleeding at the times you would normally have your periods as the endometrium (womb lining) will remain in the cervix. If your cervix is removed, you will no longer be at risk of cervical cancer, so won’t need cervical smears. Your ovaries may also be removed.

  • Immediate menopause?

    Sometimes the ovaries are also removed in a hysterectomy. This greatly reduces the risk of cancer, but will affect your hormone levels. You will begin the menopause immediately and its associated symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, dizziness and night sweats. You may require hormonal treatment.

  • Types of hysterectomy

    There are various surgical techniques for performing a hysterectomy. These are:

    Vaginal hysterectomy

    With this method, the uterus (womb) and the cervix (neck of the womb) are removed via the vagina. This technique is preferred because there are no visible scars and the recovery period is shorter than for the other methods, however it does not always work and is only possible if the uterus is not too big.

    Key hole surgery

    During keyhole surgery (a laparoscopic operation) a number of incisions are made in the stomach. These are used to insert a laparoscope, which allows the surgeon to monitor the operation on a screen. The uterus (womb) is removed in sections via the laparoscope or the vagina. The risk of infection is lower than with the standard method of surgery and the recovery time is shorter in comparison. The likelihood of permanent scars is also reduced.

    Abdominal hysterectomy

    With this method, the uterus (womb) is removed via an incision in the abdomen, just above the pubic bone. That horizontal incision is about 15cm long and can cause an unsightly scar. Sometimes a vertical scar is also necessary, for example, if the uterus is large or if cervical cancer has been diagnosed. The risk of complications is highest with this method, and the recovery period is the longest.

  • Is a hysterectomy right for you?

    In the case of benign conditions, it is important to consider the pros and cons of a hysterectomy carefully and explore other treatment options before making a decision. Thanks to innovative new treatment techniques e.g. endometrial ablation, a hysterectomy is not always necessary for heavy periods.

* Stock Photo. Posed by model

1 IN 5 WOMEN SUFFER WITH HEAVY PERIODS

1 IN 5 WOMEN SUFFER WITH HEAVY PERIODS About 20% of women suffer from heavy periods (menorrhagia). It’s not always possible to identify a cause and the symptoms vary too. If heavy periods are taking over your life, it’s time to do something about it. Because you can.

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Talking to your GP

Talking to your GP

Be prepared! Make sure you get the most out of your GP appointment. Complete the questionnaire and period diary, it will help your GP understand your problem, so you can get the right treatment, quickly.

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Experiences
    • Donna (47) Had anaemia due to heavy periods
      “On some occasions I would literally be in and out of the toilet for hours on end. I am normally such a confident, sociable person that I found being in this situation totally alien to me and highly embarrassing.”
    • Maria (51) Periods changed following childbirth
      "I was at my wits end. I experienced terrible back and abdominal pain that no pain killers could alleviate. I experienced heavy menstrual bleeding practically non-stop for a whole month and was feeling drained, miserable and snappy, so I finally went to see my GP”
    • Vera (32) Her periods changed completely after childbirth
      “I did not know what had hit me when I had my first period after childbirth. My periods were suddenly very heavy, there was blood everywhere. It felt as though I was having contractions, even though that was naturally impossible.”
    • Monique (44) Is able to run and swim again after treatment
      “I had been unhappy about my periods for years. I would always experience heavy bleeding for a week and, on top of that, my cycle was 21 days long, a lot shorter than most women.”
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