Learning About Hysterectomy Surgery

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Female reproductive organs (fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, cervix, and vagina), showing uterus and cervix to be removed in hysterectomy.

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is surgery to take out the uterus. The cervix is usually removed too. 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 past health.
  • Other surgeries you've had.
  • The size and position of your uterus.
  • 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.

Vaginal surgery

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

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 inserts 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 or through the vagina.

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, or vaginal estrogen can help.

Your doctor will likely recommend taking 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. This can cause menopause symptoms and raises the risk of having more fragile bones. Hormone therapy eases menopause symptoms and lowers the risk of bone loss. But it can raise the risk of some other problems. For most people, the benefits of taking hormones outweigh the risks. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks for you.

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 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?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.