Hysterectomy Complications: Beyond the Basics

Hysterectomy Complications That Should Scare You

What should scare you most about a hysterectomy? Losing your uterus? Going into menopause? Serious complications during surgery? Long recovery time after surgery? Sexual side effects after surgery? Urinary leaking after surgery? Or all of the above?

Who Is Hysterectomy Target Audience Population?

Hysterectomy is the 2nd most common surgery that is performed in the United States. This is rather surprising as 50% of the population does not have a uterus. The most common reason why hysterectomy is performed is uterine fibroids. While it is understandable that women with uterine cancer will need a hysterectomy, uterine fibroids are benign tumors.

The average age for women undergoing hysterectomy is <40 years. While fibroids are very common, they are particularly common in women of color. It is estimated that 80% of African-American women will develop fibroids. They tend to get fibroids earlier in life, have more numerous and larger fibroids, and are much more likely to end up with hysterectomy than any other racial group, e.g. three times more likely than Caucasian women of the same age.

No matter what your age and no matter what your desire for future fertility is, your uterus is not disposable. All too often, women with symptomatic fibroids are told by their gynecologist that their uterus is worthless after they have completed childbearing.

What Are the Complications After Hysterectomy?

Undergoing hysterectomy has consequences for women beyond the obvious surgical risks of performing a hysterectomy, e.g. intraoperative bleeding requiring transfusion, injuring adjacent organs (bladder, ureter, bowel), infection, wound issues, and blood clots.

The uterus is the epicenter of what makes you a woman. Women who undergo hysterectomy often struggle psychologically like a man being castrated. There is no way to predict who will suffer like this prior to the surgery.

The side effects of a hysterectomy at 40 or younger can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life, relationships, and self-esteem.  Research has proven the uterus plays a vital role in a woman’s overall health and removing it is not medically necessary in 90% of the total documented cases of hysterectomies performed in the United States every year.

Sexual Functioning

Hysterectomy can cause profound changes in sexual function. A sex organ cannot be removed without altering sexual function and femininity. There are many women who experience sexual dysfunction post-hysterectomy, and this includes loss of libido and loss of ability to orgasm. When the uterus is surgically removed, uterine orgasm can no longer occur.

The vagina is shortened and sutured closed at the top. This shortening and loss of elasticity of the vagina (in addition to post-operative adhesions) can cause a lot of pain during intercourse. Also, the nerves that attach to the uterus and branch out to the vagina and genitalia are also cut during hysterectomy. This too can cause decreased sexual sensation and pain.

As mentioned previously, the average age of women who undergo hysterectomy for uterine fibroids is 39 years. These are young women who likely were never told of the risks to their sexual health and now find themselves in this irreversible and completely unnecessary situation. Sexual dysfunction can negatively impact relationships and cause life-long depression which is one of the worst side effects of hysterectomy at 40.

Post-Hysterectomy Urinary Incontinence

A lot of women who undergo hysterectomy leak urine. Don’t believe me? Next time you visit your local pharmacy or large grocery store, go to where they sell adult diapers. Take a look at whose picture is on the package. The person featured on the diaper packaging is who the product is meant to attract or represent. So who will you see on the package? A pleasant-looking elderly man or woman? Nope. Likely what you will see is a young, attractive African-American woman. Why? Because this is the diaper manufacturer’s target audience: young, African-American women who have undergone hysterectomy for fibroids.

Early Menopause

Women who undergo hysterectomy can go into immediate menopause even if the surgeon leaves the ovaries behind. Remember, these are young women who are now menopausal. These women experience symptoms that include hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin, hair loss, irritability and depression, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. In addition, with hysterectomy, there is significant bone loss which can cause osteoporosis and even bone fractures.

Finally, there is evidence that hysterectomy also increases a woman’s risk for heart attack and stroke, particularly in women who undergo hysterectomy before age 50. Hysterectomized women have a three times greater risk for heart disease and if the ovaries are also removed, there is a seven times greater risk for heart attack.

Life-Threatening Side Effects Of Hysterectomy At 40

Several studies have shown that hysterectomy increases a woman’s risk for heart disease and stroke, particularly in women who undergo hysterectomy before age 50. Their risk is almost 5 times higher for congestive heart failure and 3 times higher for coronary artery disease.

This is not new information, a study from 1981 reported that women who had hysterectomies prior to menopause had three times greater chance of heart disease.  Another few studies from 1982 and 1985 reported that a woman’s uterus produced Prostacyclin which acts as an inhibitor of heart disease in women. It is a travesty that the medical community has information for over 40 years linking heart disease to hysterectomy yet today this is the very thing that is the #1 killer of women.

Video: Patient Testimonial – Don’t Get a Hysterectomy

Is There Any Alternative to Benign Hysterectomy?

Fibroids are benign tumors and hysterectomy is the most extreme treatment option. Given the significant consequences that women can face with this invasive surgery, it should be the option of last resort. Sadly, this is often the first and only option given to women.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is an outstanding, non-surgical, outpatient procedure with a 90% success rate in treating women with symptomatic fibroids. It has a 25-year track record of safety and efficacy and has been endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists for women suffering from symptomatic fibroids who want to keep their uterus.

Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout of the renowned Atlanta Fibroid Center® have performed more UFE procedures than anyone in the world. They are both double board-certified and nationally trusted authorities in the nonsurgical treatment of uterine fibroids. Their personalized care and unparalleled experience have improved the lives of thousands of women and their families. To learn more about the Atlanta Fibroid Center®, please go to ATLii.com or their YouTube channel.

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