A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus — one of the most commonly performed surgeries in women. In fact, it’s estimated that one in nine women will undergo this procedure, which is performed to treat conditions such as:
- Endometriosis that isn’t cured my medication or less invasive surgeries
- Uterine prolapse
- Persistent vaginal bleeding
- Chronic pelvic pain
There are several ways surgeons can perform a hysterectomy, and the type of procedure used will depend on each patient’s specific circumstances. Traditionally, an abdominal hysterectomy has been the most common practice. During this procedure, a large incision is made in the lower abdomen, and the uterus is extracted through it.
With medical advancements, the less invasive vaginal hysterectomy is now widely practiced. The difference in this procedure is that a small incision is made in the vagina instead of the abdomen, and the uterus is removed that way.
Benefits of Vaginal Hysterectomies
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), vaginal hysterectomies are associated with better outcomes compared to other approaches. Because the process is less invasive, vaginal hysterectomies often have a faster surgical time and shorter hospital stays. This could also mean a reduced risk of complications.
The ACOG also notes that the time span for overall healing and recovery from this type of hysterectomy is often shorter, which means a quicker return to normal activity.
Candidates for Vaginal Hysterectomies
While this may sound like an obviously easier procedure, it’s not ideal for everyone.
A vaginal hysterectomy may not be appropriate, for example, if you have an enlarged uterus or scarring from previous surgeries. Those with cancer or suspected cancer in a reproductive organ, or large uterine fibroids, or endometriosis may also be advised to undergo an alternate method.
Vaginal Hysterectomy Recovery
You may experience several changes after a hysterectomy, including loss of periods. But if your ovaries remain intact, you shouldn’t encounter any other related hormonal fluctuations.
In some instances, the ovaries may be removed during a hysterectomy, to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. If this is so, your body will undergo menopause shortly after the surgery. This may include symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood changes, and changes in the libido. If your symptoms interfere with your daily life, talk to your doctor about options for managing them.
During recovery, give yourself plenty of time to rest so your body can heal. You may experience bloody vaginal discharge for several days or weeks, and your doctor may advise you to use sanitary napkins. You can also discuss pain management options with your health specialist, to reduce any discomfort during the recovery period.
While a little physical activity each day may be beneficial, avoid lifting anything heavier than ten pounds for at least four weeks. Your doctor may have more specific recovery instructions, so be sure to follow them precisely.
If you’re experiencing any of the health issues discusses above and you want to discuss the option of a hysterectomy, schedule an appointment with one of our providers by calling (404) 352-2850. You can also learn more about our surgical services online.