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Learning About Hysterectomy Surgery

Total hysterectomy and total hysterectomy with removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes.

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is surgery to take out the uterus. Sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes also are removed at the same time.

How is this surgery done?

There are many ways to do the surgery. The type you have may depend on your medical condition and the size and position of your uterus. It also depends on your overall health. Talk with your doctor about which type is right for you.

Abdominal surgery

This is done through a cut that the doctor makes in the lower belly. The cut is called an incision. The doctor takes out the uterus through this cut in the belly.

Vaginal surgery

This is done through the vagina. The doctor makes a small cut in the vagina instead of the belly. The uterus is removed through this cut in the vagina.

Laparoscopic surgery

The doctor puts a lighted tube (laparoscope) through small cuts in the belly. The doctor can see your organs with the scope. The doctor can insert surgical tools to cut the tissue that holds your uterus in place. Then the uterus is removed. It may be removed through small cuts in the belly. (This is called laparoscopic abdominal hysterectomy.) Or it may be removed through the vagina. (This is called laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy.)

What can you expect after your surgery?

You might go home the day of your hysterectomy or stay in the hospital for several days. Recovery can take 4 to 6 weeks. It depends on which type of surgery you have and your overall health. You won't be able to do any heavy lifting. And you will have to take it easy for a few weeks. It's common to feel more tired than usual.

After surgery, you will no longer have periods. You won't be able to get pregnant. If there's a chance that you will want to get pregnant in the future, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

Most people can have sex without problems after they recover from surgery. But if you have your ovaries removed, you may have vaginal dryness after the surgery. It can make sex less comfortable. A vaginal lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly, can help.

You may need to take hormones after your surgery if your ovaries are removed and you haven't gone through menopause. Taking out the ovaries before menopause causes a sudden drop in the hormone estrogen. Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of taking hormones if you have your ovaries removed.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It is also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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