Surgical removal of the uterus is called hysterectomy. Sometimes one or both the ovaries are removed (oophorectomy) along with the uterus. It is a common type of surgery and it is performed in various ways. For example, abdominal, vaginal, laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy and robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy (RALH). Hysterectomy can be total, subtotal or radical; it depends upon which parts of the reproductive system (uterus, ovaries, lymph nodes, cervix, upper vagina, parametrium, and fallopian tubes) are removed during the surgery.
Recovery time and side effects after hysterectomy may vary according to the cause, type and procedure of the surgery. In partial hysterectomy, cervix is retained while uterus is removed. The doctor may find it necessary to remove the uterus and other related parts in case of uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, persistent vaginal bleeding, endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain during menstruation, prolapsed uterus, etc.
Common Side Effects of Hysterectomy
Hysterectomy may affect the physical and mental health of a woman, especially when it is performed in the menopausal or perimenopausal stage. The woman suddenly and directly enters the post menopause stage without passing through the phases of perimenopause and menopause. The body cannot accept this drastic change and therefore a woman usually faces a lot of problems.
Hormonal changes do have a major impact on the woman's health. Levels of hormones after hysterectomy (for example estrogen levels) decrease considerably. This increases the risk of cardiovascular and skeletal diseases. A reduction in the testosterone level may cause height loss and osteoporosis (reduced bone density). Side effects of partial hysterectomy and side effects of total or radical hysterectomy are almost the same. They may vary slightly, depending upon the reason for which the surgery is performed and the procedure followed. Surgical complications are not discussed in this article.
Common side effects of hysterectomy include
- Hot flashes
- Bleeding, pain, infection
- Joint pain
- Loss of sexual desire
- Hair loss
- Development of excess facial hair on the upper lip and chin region
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings, anxiety, depression
- Headaches, palpitations
- Weight gain
Hysterectomy after Menopause
Dealing with the side effects of a hysterectomy that is performed after menopause should not be very difficult. As it does not cause drastic changes in the body, there should be hardly any side effects as such. Since the uterus has already stopped functioning, it should not make any difference to you, if it is removed. Hysterectomy performed during the menopausal or perimenopausal stage may lead to a number of side effects.
Measurement of testosterone, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) tells whether a woman has entered menopause or not. But it should be kept in mind that every case is a unique case, so the severity and type of side effects may vary from woman to woman, depending upon several factors, like her overall health, lifestyle, and mental strength. Positive thinking, keeping oneself engaged in interesting activities, balanced diet, regular exercise, and nutritional supplements help women overcome this phase.
As an effect of anesthesia, the woman may experience nausea after the surgery. During the recovery period, the woman should take precautions to prevent infection. She may suffer from weakness and loss of appetite after the surgery but within a week, she should gain strength (depending upon the type and cause of surgery). Use of advanced technology during the surgery helps reduce post operative pain and blood loss during the surgery. This promotes faster recovery time. The woman can return to daily activities within a couple of weeks.
The side effects mentioned above may be experienced after a few months. If you have undergone hysterectomy after menopause and if you are experiencing any side effects of the surgery, you should consult your doctor. Emotional disturbance, increased anxiety, mood swings are more common in younger women than in older women. Surgical (forced) menopause is responsible for this. The doctor might suggest hormone replacement therapy if required. There might be some exceptional cases like uterine cancer cases, but generally, after hysterectomy, most women are able to lead a better and improved life.
Women usually experience weight gain after the surgery; but this can be sorted out by following a low calorie healthy diet and by increasing physical activities. Aging, hormonal imbalance, change in lifestyle due to aging like reduced physical activity are mainly responsible for weight gain after hysterectomy. Women should consult a doctor before designing the weight loss diet. If they wish, they may join a support group. They can freely discuss their problems with other women who have undergone hysterectomy. Balanced diet coupled with regular exercise can help them deal with the changes taking place in the body.