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Hysterectomy 101: Why Women Get Them

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If you’re a woman who suffers from heavy periods or extreme abdominal pain and nothing you’re trying to do to fix those problems is working, getting a hysterectomy might just be the right solution for you.

Hysterectomy—the surgical removal of the uterus—can improve your quality of life, especially if you find that you’re always dealing with a problem down there that gets in the way of good times with family and friends. If you ultimately decide a hysterectomy makes sense for you, you’re not alone; it’s the second most common surgery for women in the United States. (Cesarean section is the first.) More than 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the U.S. annually.

Here are a few reasons women have hysterectomies.

  • Uterine fibroids: These noncancerous growths are the most common reason women have hysterectomies. Symptoms can include heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, and pelvic pain.
  • Uterine prolapse: When the muscles and tissue in your pelvis weaken, you’re at risk for a uterine prolapse, when your uterus drops into your vagina. Symptoms include urine leakage, bulging in the vagina, lower-back pain, and constipation. A uterine prolapse can occur in women of any age, but it often affects postmenopausal women who have given birth.
  • Endometriosis: This is a painful disorder in which the type of tissue that lines the inside of your uterus grows outside of it. It usually includes growths in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining your pelvis. It can also cause irregular periods.
  • Cancer: The main treatment for cervical, ovarian, or endometrial cancer is hysterectomy. This accounts for about 10% of the hysterectomies that are performed.
  • Adenomyosis: This painful disorder occurs when the inner lining of your uterus grows into the muscle wall of the uterus. Symptoms include lower abdominal pressure, painful, heavy periods, and bloating when you’re premenstrual.
  • Placenta accreta: This serious medical condition, which can cause severe blood loss, occurs when a pregnant woman’s placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall and remains attached after childbirth. 

The decision to get a hysterectomy is a big one, though, and it usually comes as a last resort after alternatives, including medications and less-invasive surgical procedures are considered. Two big reasons are, following the procedure, women of childbearing age won’t be able to get pregnant and they won’t have periods either.

What happens during and after a hysterectomy

If you’re considering a hysterectomy, you probably want to know how it’s done. 

Ultimately, the type of procedure you’ll get and what will be removed is up to you and your surgeon. 

If you’re having an abdominal hysterectomy, your surgeon will remove your uterus—and possibly your cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes—through an incision in your lower abdomen. Hysterectomies can also be performed through an incision in your vagina or by less invasive methods, using laparoscopic or robotic procedures.

The surgery usually lasts from one to two hours and is performed under general anesthesia, which means you won’t be awake. Afterward, you’ll probably stay in the hospital for two or three days. The typical recovery time is about six weeks. If you have more questions about hysterectomies, you can visit our surgical website, where our surgeons, including our gynecologists and obstetricians, answer common questions about all the surgeries we perform at Hancock Regional. It’s another way we’re making health possible across East Central Indiana and beyond.