Being informed about hysterectomy and the alternatives can help you make a better, and more informed choice about your own health in the future. The Hysterectomy Association exists to help you make the right choice for your needs. On the site you'll find masses of information about the menopause/surgical menopause and hormone replacement therapy. Hysterectomy is defined as the surgical removal of the uterus or womb. A hysterectomy may be total, that is removing the whole of the uterus (womb) and the cervix; it may be sub-total, that is removing the uterus or womb but leaving the cervix intact. In addition to the hysterectomy, the ovaries and the fallopian tubes may also be removed, this is called a hysterectomy with bi-lateral salpingo oophorectomy.
Following a hysterectomy you will no longer have periods, you will not be fertile and you will not be able to have any more children. There are two main ways to perform a hysterectomy. The most common way is to remove the uterus through a cut in the lower abdomen (abdominal hysterectomy), the second, less common, way is to remove the uterus only through a cut in the top of the vagina, the top of vagina is then stitched (vaginal hysterectomy). Each operation lasts between one to two hours and is performed, in hospital, normally under a general anaesthetic.
Up to 38,000 hysterectomy operations are carried out by the NHS on women in the UK every year and around 55,000 in the UK as a whole. This figure means that one in five of all women will have a hysterectomy at some point in their life. It is what is termed ‘elective surgery’ this means that in most cases it is a choice that a woman has rather than an emergency procedure. It is rarely performed for reasons of saving life, although there are a number of instances where it might be necessary for this reason, for instance in the case of post-partum hemorrhage.
The majority of hysterectomies are performed when a woman is aged between 40 - 50, however many do occur before and after this age group. Women who have a hysterectomy that removes their ovaries, as well as other organs, will go through the menopause immediately following the operation (if they haven’t already) regardless of their age, this is known as a surgical menopause. Women who have a hysterectomy that leaves one or both of their ovaries intact have a 50% chance of going through the menopause within five years of their operation, again regardless of their age.