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Hysterectomy

This is the treatment that most women will be offered who do not wish to have children. It is surgical removal of the womb or uterus. There are at least 75,000 hysterectomies performed in the UK [NHS and private sector] every year. Approximately 60% of these are for fibroids.

The operation can be performed via the vagina or through the abdomen / tummy. In a few hospitals it can also be performed on small fibroids laparoscopically (through a telescopic device inserted through the belly button) or hysteroscopically (through a telescopic device inserted through the vagina).

Normally the abdominal approach is used for the treatment of fibroids. Often surgeons also remove the ovaries although they are not diseased in most cases and are not part of the treatment. NICE guidelines on 'Heavy Menstruall Bleeding' have forbidden this.This takes women immediately into menopause.

Hospital stay is normally from 5 days to 2 weeks and considerable support is required at home, as women cannot even lift a kettle for some weeks. Return to work is normally in 2-3 months and women can't drive a car for 6 weeks.

Women will be infertile and periods will stop. Often hormone replacement will be required (HRT). Certainly this will be necessary if the ovaries are removed. Menopause will normally be 5 years earlier as a result of a hysterectomy, if the ovaries aren't removed and instantaneous if they are.

There are a number of side effects apart from depletion of hormones including sexual dysfunction and sometimes urinary incontinence as a result of surgical trauma.

There have recently been calls by the medical profession to reduce the number of hysterectomies performed, as it is an invasive operation, with long-term side effects and a long hospital stay and recovery time.

Read our Hysterectomy FAQs