A hysterectomy is defined as the “surgical removal of the uterus” (womb) and being informed about hysterectomy and the alternatives can help you make a better, and more informed choice about your own health in the future.
It is one of the most common of all surgical procedures for women and can also involve the removal of the fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix to cure or alleviate a number of gynaecological complaints. Following this operation 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, the second, less common way is to remove the uterus only through a cut in the top of the vagina, the top of the vagina is then stitched. Each operation lasts between 45 minutes to two hours and is performed, in the hospital, under a general anaesthetic.
Usually, a hysterectomy is ‘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.
The majority of hysterectomies are performed between the ages of 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 menopause immediately (if they haven’t already) following the operation regardless of their age, this is known as surgical menopause. Women who have a hysterectomy that leaves one or both of their ovaries intact have a 50% chance of going through menopause within five years of their operation, again regardless of their age.
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 bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.
According to the Europa website, roughly 55,000 hysterectomies are carried out in the UK every year, roughly 38,000 will take place within an NHS hospital. Hysterectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures carried out on women the world over and over 1.2 million take place globally every year. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will experience the operation at some point in their lives.
This figure means that almost 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 haemorrhage.
Hysterectomy can and does, help to ease many gynaecological complaints, including painful and heavy bleeding, endometriosis, fibroids and prolapse of the uterus. It can involve the removal of the womb, the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, part of the vagina, the cervix, the omentum and the ligaments of the abdominal area. Once a hysterectomy has been carried out, a woman will face a major life stage which can be incredibly liberating for many or painful for others.
This is the section of my site where you’ll find out more information about hysterectomy and what it might mean for you. In addition to pages about women’s health conditions, the alternative options there are sections on the types of hysterectomy, surgical menopause and on hormone replacement therapy.