A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the womb (uterus). You will no longer be able to get pregnant after the operation. If you haven’t already gone through the menopause, you will also no longer have periods, regardless of your age. The menopause is when a woman’s monthly periods stop, usually at around the age of 52.
Hysterectomies are carried out to treat conditions that affect the female reproductive system, including:
- heavy periods (menorrhagia)
- long-term pelvic pain
- non-cancerous tumours (fibroids)
- ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer or cancer of the fallopian tubes
A hysterectomy is a major operation with a long recovery time and is only considered after alternative, less invasive, treatments have been tried.
Things to consider
If you have a hysterectomy, as well as having your womb removed, you may have to decide whether to also have your cervix or ovaries removed. Your decision will usually be based on your personal feelings, medical history and any recommendations your doctor may have.
Types of hysterectomy
There are various types of hysterectomy. The type you have depends on why you need the operation and how much of your womb and surrounding reproductive system can safely be left in place.
The main types of hysterectomy are:
- total hysterectomy – the womb and cervix (neck of the womb) are removed; this is the most commonly performed operation
- subtotal hysterectomy – the main body of the womb is removed, leaving the cervix in place
- total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingectomy) and the ovaries (oophorectomy) are removed
- radical hysterectomy – the womb and surrounding tissues are removed, including the fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands and fatty tissue
There are three ways to carry out a hysterectomy:
- vaginal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the top of the vagina
- abdominal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the lower abdomen
- laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery) – where the womb is removed through several small cuts in the abdomen