During a hysterectomy, all or part of a woman's uterus is removed. Depending upon the precipitating underlying cause that necessitated surgical intervention, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and other sections of the reproductive tract may be removed as well. In this article we will discuss the particulars of hysterectomy, such as, the post-surgical manifestations that could adversely impact a woman's sexual health and life, as well as the steps she can employ to alleviate or eliminate such symptoms.
What Health Conditions Might Necessitate a Hysterectomy?
Typically, cancer infiltrating the ovaries, uterus or cervical region is among the most common reasons women undergo hysterectomies. In certain instances, the procedure may serve as the only means of preventing the spread of the malignancy. Uterine or complete reproductive organ removal might also be indicated when a woman is stricken with several other health conditions including uterine prolapse (when the uterus shifts out of its normal position), severe instances of infection or bleeding inside the reproductive tract, endometriosis (a condition that precipitates abnormal growth of uterine tissue), uterine fibroids (growths inside the uterus that may elicit severe pain and bleeding) or when the uterus becomes abnormally thick.
What Bodily Changes Does a Hysterectomy Cause?
Women may experience different physical manifestations in the wake of a hysterectomy depending upon the extent of the procedure. However, there are certain impacts that practically all women will experience in the surgery's aftermath. The most notable occurrence will be the absence of menstrual periods. In addition, women who have had hysterectomies performed will no longer be able to become pregnant. Women who additionally have the ovaries extracted might experience the symptoms of menopause. Such circumstances arise because the ovaries are one of the body's primary producers of reproductive hormones like estrogen. Menopause can often result when hormonal production ceases or drops precipitously.
Can A Hysterectomy Impact a Woman's Sex Life?
Hysterectomy can have a profound effect on a woman's sexual health from both a physical and mental standpoint. Physically speaking, a hysterectomy, like any other type of operation, can elicit post-surgical pain. Discomfort in the vaginal and pelvic region might make intercourse uncomfortable until wounds heal and scars dissipate. In addition to post-operative discomfort, some women experience issues like vaginal dryness which can exacerbate lingering pain during sex.
The mental sexual manifestations of a hysterectomy might be precipitated by both biological and psychological influences. When the procedure elicits menopause, the associated hormonal depletion could result in decreased libido. In addition, menopause can also cause depression. A woman afflicted with depression may lose interest in many different activities she used to enjoy, most notably sex.
Some women might feel ashamed of how their bodies, particularly their vaginal regions appear following the procedure. Instances of body shaming might precipitate intimacy issues. Performance issues may plague other women. A team of Boston University scientists found that women who had the cervix extracted during hysterectomy experienced performance and arousal difficulties in addition to other sexual hindrance problems like post-operative pain and menopause-induced depression.
What Steps Can Women Employ to Overcome These Issues?
Remedial efforts are often contingent upon which underlying problem is precipitating the sexual difficulties. However, there are several therapeutic methods impacted women might wish to utilize such as:
Allowing the Body Time to Heal
Many medical experts opine that women should refrain from any type of sexual activity for at least six to eight weeks following a hysterectomy. After this time, surgical wounds will have healed, any lingering bleeding or discharge should have ceased and post-operative pain will likely have subsided.
Rebuilding the Strength of the Reproductive Region
Women experiencing performance issues might be able to alleviate or eliminate these shortcomings by engaging in exercises that strengthen the pelvic and vaginal muscles.
Keeping the Vagina Properly Lubricated
Women might be able to prevent or ameliorate discomfort precipitated by vaginal dryness by applying various creams, moisturizers and lubricants.
Fixing Hormonal Imbalances
Menopausal women might be able to regain a normal hormonal balance by undergoing hormone replacement therapy. Estrogen may be administered via pills, skin patches or injections. Hormone therapy does come with certain associated health risks. Therefore, this form of therapy should be undertaken after close consultation with a physician. Once hormonal levels are balanced, women might regain a strong libido.
In minor cases of menopausal-induced depression, hormone therapy might alleviate existing mental symptoms. However, should depression be more severe, different forms of treatment might be indicated and include medications like anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs.
Can A Women Once Again Enjoy Sex After Hysterectomy?
In many cases, the answer to this question is yes. Should women identify what is causing sexual hindrance, they should be able to address the issue(s) and, once again, experience a rewarding and enjoyable sex life following a hysterectomy.