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Hysterectomy Side Effects

What to Expect After a Hysterectomy

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Updated May 23, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

A hysterectomy is a surgical approach used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including gynecologic cancer. Women who are advised to have a hysterectomy are often concerned about the effects of the procedure and how their bodies will respond to no longer having a uterus. These are valid concerns, as the procedure can cause a variety of effects, depending on what type of hysterectomy a woman undergoes.

There are three types of hysterectomy surgeries:

Total hysterectomy: Most women who undergo a hysterectomy will have a total hysterectomy, which involves the removal of the uterus and cervix.

Radical hysterectomy: A radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus, cervix and upper part of the vagina. Tissues that support the uterus and lymph nodes may also be removed. In cases of gynecologic cancer, this type of hysterectomy is often recommended.

Partial Hysterectomy: Also called a subtotal hysterectomy, this type of procedure involves the removal of the uterus only, leaving the cervix intact.

During a hysterectomy, the ovaries may also be removed. The procedure is referred to as a hysterectomy plus bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

Side Effects of Hysterectomy Surgery

The side effects vary based on the type of hysterectomy surgery. Considering all hysterectomy surgeries involve the removal of the uterus, women who have not yet entered menopause will no longer menstruate, an event called forced or surgical menopause. Women who undergo a total hysterectomy plus bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy will experience the effects immediately.

Since the uterus is removed, the primary side effect of a hysterectomy is infertility. As women in their childbearing years do undergo hysterectomies because of medical conditions, this effect can be emotionally devastating for those who desire children. Many turn to adoption or surrogacy to have children. While not available now, research is being conducted about uterus transplants for women who can no longer have children due to a hysterectomy or other medical cause.

Regardless of what type of hysterectomy is performed, all women experience side effects, but at varying degrees. After a hysterectomy, you may experience menopausal symptoms, such as:

Women who have their ovaries removed during a hysterectomy experience immediate forced menopause. The ovaries serve as a production center for two important hormones -- progesterone and estrogen. These hormones help support menstruation and fertility. However, once they are removed, production sharply decreases, causing the above side effects.

Women whose ovaries are spared still do experience the same physical effects as women who have had their ovaries removed, but at a lesser degree. Even though the ovaries remain, hormone production slows down, decreasing the level of hormones in the body.

Hormonal changes can also bring mood swings, anxiety, depression, and irritability. If you experience emotional effects after a hysterectomy, talk to your doctor. Treatment depends on several factors, such as what type of hysterectomy you had and other existing health conditions. Together, you can plan a course of action to keep your emotions stabilized that is tailored to your own needs and medical history.

The idea of no longer menstruating can be a relief for women undergoing a hysterectomy, especially those who suffer from heavy periods or cramping during their cycle. This aspect of the procedure is often referred to as the "silver lining" among hysterectomy patients.

Concerns About Cancer Screening After a Hysterectomy

Along with the side effects of having a hysterectomy, many women are concerned with cervical cancer screening after having the procedure. Unfortunately, it's a common misconception that women who have had a hysterectomy no longer need a Pap smear. If you had a hysterectomy because of cervical cancer or have a history of cervical dysplasia, you should continue to have routine cervical exams, such as Pap smears and/or colposcopic exams at your doctor's discretion. This is true even if your cervix has been removed.

Women who do not have a history of cervical cancer or cervical dysplasia and have had their cervix removed no longer require regular screenings. If your cervix was not removed during surgery, you should continue to have regular screenings.

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