The female reproductive system is a very complex system. And as with any system, occasionally, things go wrong. When treatments and therapies can't fix an issue, sometimes surgery is required. Surgery to remove a woman's uterus or womb, a major component of this system, is called hysterectomy. Let's talk about this procedure.
There are many reasons a woman may need a hysterectomy: cancer of the uterus, usually endometrial cancer; cancer of the cervix; childbirth complications, such as uncontrolled bleeding; other long-term vaginal bleeding problems; long-term pelvic pain. Other reasons include severe endometriosis, including growths outside the uterus; slipping of the uterus into the vagina and perhaps tumors in the uterus, such as uterine fibroids.
During a hysterectomy, your doctor may remove the entire uterus or just part of it. The fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus, and the ovaries themselves may also be removed.
There are several different ways to perform a hysterectomy. It may be done through a surgical cut in either the belly or vagina. It may be done using laparoscopy, using a camera and smaller incisions, or it may be performed using robotic surgery. Your doctor will help you decide which type of procedure is best for you.
After surgery, you will receive pain medications to relieve discomfort. You may also have a tube, called a catheter, inserted into your bladder for a day or two to pass urine. You will be asked to get up and move around as soon as possible after surgery; this helps prevent blood clots from forming in your legs and speeds up recovery.
How long you stay in the hospital depends on the type of hysterectomy. If you have a robot-assisted hysterectomy, you will likely go home the next day. Most women who have a hysterectomy, however, will stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days, maybe even longer if you have a hysterectomy due to cancer.
Recovery may take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the type of hysterectomy you have. A hysterectomy will cause menopause if you also have your ovaries removed. Removal of the ovaries can also lead to a decreased sex drive. Your doctor, then, may recommend estrogen replacement therapy. There is some good news. Removing the problematic organs should keep you from having problems in this area again.
Review Date: 2/19/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.