On the wrong end of the speculum – Stephanie’s story

As a GP, I see a lot of women for gynaecological conditions. As a patient with large multiple fibroids (giving me a uterus size equivalent to a 5 month pregnancy), I found myself on the other side of the consulting room as a patient, hence “on the wrong end of the speculum”.

As my condition was benign, I didn’t HAVE to have the hysterectomy. I chose to have the operation, as the fibroids were getting bigger by the month, and causing bloating (especially after eating) and getting in the way of exercising (pilates, yoga) and couldn’t comfortably lie on my front.

My gynaecologist thought he would have to do a vertical incision , and said that he would also remove my ovaries. Being 49, they only had a couple of years of life left in them. Having a hysterectomy was going to disrupt the blood supply to them, meaning that they would likely pack up earlier anyway. My gynaecologist said , “An oncologist (cancer specialist) would say remove the ovaries,” – to avoid any risk of ovarian cancer when I’m an old lady. And I totally agreed with this.

Although this meant I would crash into the menopause straight after my operation, I planned just to see how I was. After 2 weeks, I started with hot sweats at night, and this really disrupted my sleep. So I decided to start HRT patches, and this has helped. Also, it helps to sleep naked, under just an empty single duvet cover (cotton).

I stayed one night in hospital. I was really pleased that I could come home the next day. If you want to be home ASAP, it certainly is possible. I think there are certain things that helped my speedy recovery: I was relatively young at the time of my operation (49), I was a non smoker, not over weight and had reasonable fitness from pilates and yoga. In hospital, I did exactly as I was told by the staff. I drank LOADS of water (one and a half hospital jugs) after I came round from the anaesthetic so that when the catheter came out, it was easier to wee. Then needed to get myself up to go to the toilet several times, so I was mobilising early. I got up slowly, held the bed end to get my balance and then set off slowly and as upright and straight as I could manage.

A few things were difficult: removal of a drain – oh my goodness that felt as though the nurse was pulling yards of it out of my abdomen – round and round and round…what a weird feeling! She told me to “just breathe” so I did my deep breathing and this did help. It only took a few minutes but it did feel longer.

The second thing was that I had tried to move position in the hospital bed, by pulling myself up on the cot sides. The day I got home, I found that I had pulled a muscle in my shoulder from doing this. It recovered in a day or two.

The other thing was that in the first week or two, at the end of a wee, I had a strange pulling sensation / slight pain. I checked at the GP that this wasn’t a bladder infection first. I realised that this was the sensation of the bladder contracting at the end of a wee, and this would in turn pull sightly on the area where I had been stitched internally at the top of the vagina.

As a GP, I had good understanding of wound care, prevention of DVT, HRT etc. But I couldn’t find much online (or from my own medical training ) about sex after hysterectomy. One website said that the 6 week period after hysterectomy without sex would be a ‘welcome break’ for a woman, which I felt quite annoyed about ! Sounded as if they didn’t understand women’s libido / sexual needs at all!

All the info I found said not to have penetrative vaginal sex after a hysterectomy (yes of course), but didn’t say anything about whether it was OK to orgasm from any other way. Although I was a bit apprehensive of how things would work and how I would feel, I found that orgasms were just the same as pre-hysterectomy at 4 weeks post op, from manual or oral stimulation. Penetrative sex for me started in week 6, and I am really happy to report that all was well, and the same as before. I hope your partner is as understanding and generous as mine. Sense of humour always helps, doesn’t it?

Good luck to you and hope all goes well.

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