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A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove a woman’s uterus (also known as the womb). The uterus is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant. During the surgery the whole uterus is usually removed. Your doctor may also remove your fallopian tubes and ovaries. After a hysterectomy, you no longer have menstrual periods and cannot become pregnant.

Why would I need a hysterectomy?

You may need a hysterectomy if you have one of the following:

  • Uterine fibroids
  • Heavy or unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Uterine prolapse
  • Endometriosis
  • Adenomyosis
  • Cancer (or pre-cancer) of the uterus, ovary, cervix, or endometrium (the lining of the uterus)

Keep in mind that there may be alternative ways to treat your health problem without having a hysterectomy. Hysterectomy is a major surgery. Talk with your doctor about all of your treatment options.

How common are hysterectomies?

Each year in the United States, nearly 500,000 women get hysterectomies. A hysterectomy is the second most common surgery among women in the United States. The most common surgery in women is childbirth by cesarean delivery (C-section).

What are the different types of hysterectomies?

  • A total hysterectomy removes all of the uterus, including the cervix. The ovaries and the fallopian tubes may or may not be removed. This is the most common type of hysterectomy.
  • A partial, also called subtotal or supracervical, hysterectomy removes just the upper part of the uterus. The cervix is left in place. The ovaries may or may not be removed.
  • A radical hysterectomy removes all of the uterus, cervix, the tissue on both sides of the cervix, and the upper part of the vagina. A radical hysterectomy is most often used to treat certain types of cancer, such as cervical cancer. The fallopian tubes and the ovaries may or may not be removed.
How is a hysterectomy performed?
A hysterectomy can be done in several different ways. It will depend on your health history and the reason for your surgery. Talk to your doctor about the different options:

  • Abdominal Hysterectomy. Your doctor makes a cut, usually in your lower abdomen.
  • Vaginal Hysterectomy. This is done through a small cut in the vagina.
  • Laparoscopic Hysterectomy. A laparoscope is an instrument with a thin, lighted tube and a small camera that allows your doctor to see your pelvic organs. Laparoscopic surgery is when the doctor makes very small cuts to put the laparoscope and surgical tools inside of you. During a laparoscopic hysterectomy the uterus is removed through the small cuts made in either your abdomen or your vagina.
  • Robotic Surgery. Your doctor guides a robotic arm to do the surgery through small cuts in your lower abdomen, like a laparoscopic hysterectomy.

I’ve had a hysterectomy. Do I still need to have Pap tests?

Maybe. You will still need regular Pap tests (or Pap smear) to screen for cervical cancer if you:

  • Did not have your cervix removed
  • Had a hysterectomy because of cancer or precancer

Ask your doctor what is best for you and how often you should have Pap tests.

How long does it take to recover from a hysterectomy?

Recovering from a hysterectomy takes time. Most women stay in the hospital one to two days after surgery. Some doctors may send you home the same day of your surgery. Some women stay in the hospital longer, often when the hysterectomy is done because of cancer.

Your doctor will likely have you get up and move around as soon as possible after your hysterectomy. This includes going to the bathroom on your own. However, you may have to pee through a thin tube called a catheter for one or two days after your surgery.

The time it takes for you to return to normal activities depends on the type of surgery:

Abdominal surgery can take from four to six weeks to recover.

Vaginal, laparoscopic, or robotic surgery can take from three to four weeks to recover.

You should get plenty of rest and not lift heavy objects for four to six weeks after surgery. At that time, you should be able to take tub baths and resume sexual intercourse. How long it takes for you to recover will depend on your surgery and your health before the surgery. Talk to your doctor. 

Source: womenshealth.gov

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