Key points about a hysterectomy

  • A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes a woman’s uterus. The uterus is the area of the female reproductive system where the baby grows during fetal development.
  • After a woman has undergone a hysterectomy, she cannot become pregnant.
  • In some cases, the ovaries are removed as part of the hysterectomy, while sometimes the ovaries remain in place.

Overview

An abdominal hysterectomy is performed when an incision is made through the lower abdomen and the uterus is removed. This procedure is typically only used when other treatment options have not been effective. 

Candidates for a hysterectomy

If you have a reproductive health condition that hasn’t responded to more conservative treatment options – such as medication or therapy – your specialist may recommend you undergo a hysterectomy as a last resort. 

A hysterectomy is typically considered to be the last treatment option because it leaves a woman sterile, or unable to bear children.

If you have one of the following health conditions, your specialist may recommend you undergo a hysterectomy:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Endometriosis  
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Uterine prolapse (when the uterus has dropped into the vagina)

Expectations from a hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is usually performed in a hospital under general anesthesia (fully asleep). There are a few different methods by which your specialist may choose to remove your uterus, including through your abdomen, through your vagina or using tiny incisions and surgical instruments (laparoscopic, or robotic).

Recovery from a hysterectomy

Depending on the type of hysterectomy you undergo, you may return home the same day or you may stay in the hospital up to two days after your procedure. You shouldn’t lift heavy objects or have sexual intercourse for at least four weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will provide specific details about your recovery.

If you have an abdominal hysterectomy, you can expect to rest and recover for four to six weeks after the procedure. If you have a vaginal hysterectomy, laparoscopic hysterectomy or robotic surgery, your recovery time should be a bit quicker at three or four weeks.

A hysterectomy will cause you to no longer have your menstrual cycle (period) and you will no longer be able to get pregnant. If your specialist removes your ovaries as part of your hysterectomy, you will undergo menopause right away.

When should I seek treatment?

If you believe you may need to undergo a hysterectomy, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a women’s health provider for more specialized treatment.