Sometimes, it becomes necessary for a woman to have her uterus removed due to injury or disease, says acclaimed women’s health expert Marla Ahlgrimm. The procedure to do this is called a hysterectomy. Most often, the entire uterus is taken, though a doctor may choose to only remove part of the womb and may also remove the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, greater than 500,000 women each year undergo hysterectomy surgery. It’s the second most common surgical procedure for women, surpassed only by cesarean delivery.
A partial, or supracervical, hysterectomy involves the removal of only part of the top half of the uterus; the cervix remains in place. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that the ovaries may or may not be removed.
This is the most common type of hysterectomy surgery. During a total hysterectomy, the entire uterus, and potentially the fallopian tubes and ovaries, are removed.
Marla Ahlgrimm describes radical hysterectomy surgery as a last resort, usually reserved for cervical cancer patients. A radical hysterectomy removes a woman’s uterus as well as the tissue immediately surrounding the womb. The upper portion of the vagina is also removed.
Hysterectomy and menopause
Some women who undergo hysterectomy surgery will have some symptoms of menopause right away. The rapidity of onset depends on whether or not one or both ovaries were left intact, says Marla Ahlgrimm. If both ovaries are removed, menopause can come on almost immediately and may be more severe than natural menopause. Women who have kept both ovaries often experience menopause a few years sooner than the average age of 51.
Most women with a satisfactory sex life before having a hysterectomy will continue to engage sexually without a problem. However, vaginal dryness, which often accompanies menopause, may cause a disinterest in intercourse. Water-based lubricants and allowing additional time for arousal may help.