Have you heard many horror stories about all the side effects of hysterectomy?
Wonder what happens to the body after a hysterectomy?
How long will the ovaries work after hysterectomy? Will there be long-term side effects?
Don’t let the thought of all the possible problems after hysterectomy scare you too much. In reality, most of the side effects are related to menopause. Meaning, someday you will have to face most of the problems that come with menopause anyway.
I won’t deny that hysterectomy surgery can provoke a wide range of side effects. Some are fairly common and understandable why they happen. Other side effects are extremely rare and you have probably never heard of.
Surely a hysterectomy may have certain physical and psychological side effects on women. But many depend on whether you can keep your ovaries or not. Without your ovaries, you will go abruptly into menopause with all the troublesome symptoms that come with it.
When this happens, hormone replacement therapy is your best option to ward of any negative effects.
Interesting facts you should know about side effects of hysterectomy
Want to know more about side effects of hysterectomy and why they occur? In this post, we will try to clarify some of the issues you may have to deal with after a hysterectomy.
Sore breasts after hysterectomy
Breast pain is one of the unexpected side effects of hysterectomy that some women experience. When they leave the ovaries you will continue to cycle after the hysterectomy. You won’t have monthly menstrual bleeding because you have no uterus. But you will still have ovaries that are producing hormones. That’s why you still may have premenstrual symptoms such as tender, swollen and painful breasts also known as cyclical mastalgia.
A woman who has her ovaries removed at the time of the hysterectomy may also experience breast soreness if she is taking HRT.
There are many more reasons women can experience breast pain. They can be innocent like off consuming too much caffeine, chocolate or other things in her diet. Our first thought usually is that it may be a sign of breast cancer. So if it worries you or when you can feel a lump, a mass or see any skin changes in your breast, you need to get it examined by a doctor.
Hysterectomy and joint pain
Very few women are aware that joint pain is a common side effect of hysterectomy . Estrogen has a protective and anti-inflammatory effect on your body including your joints.
Reduced levels of estrogen can have a negative impact on your joints like chronic inflammation and pain. This is generally the most accepted explanation for why your joints may be hurting following a hysterectomy.
Migraines can both improve and worsen with the surgery. Side effects of hysterectomy such as migraines are often triggered by hormonal fluctuations. You may have noticed that your migraines usually get worse when you have your period.
According to the American migraine foundation, some women who suffer from migraines before surgery may benefit from a hysterectomy with ovary removal. But the sudden drop in hormones may worsen the symptoms for others.
If you are afraid that a hysterectomy may have a bad effect on your migraines discuss this with a doctor. You may benefit from wearing an estrogen patch right after surgery as this will prevent an enormous drop in estrogen. Read more about menopausal headaches and migraines.
Insomnia after hysterectomy
Sleeplessness is a common complaint after hysterectomy. When during the surgery you lose your ovaries you will have to deal with estrogen withdrawal symptoms. Due to low estrogen, you may experience night sweats, anxiety and aching joints after the surgery which can make it difficult for you to get to sleep. These hormonal outbreaks may wake you several times in the night causing you to be moody, irritable and tired the following day.
Mood swings after hysterectomy
For some of us women, the emotional side effects of hysterectomy are more severe than the physical effects of a hysterectomy. Sudden withdrawal of estrogen can cause havoc to our system and may provoke sudden tears, irritability and a sense of loss. When both ovaries are surgically removed these emotions may hit women sudden and fierce.
Estrogen is a hormone that has the power to increase our serotonin levels which regulates our mood. Low estrogen is also associated with anxiety, panic attacks and depression after hysterectomy.
The majority of women with these side effects of a hysterectomy are treated with anti-depressants whereas they would probably benefit more from proper hormone replacement therapy to correct hormonal imbalances.
Mini periods after a partial hysterectomy
It is not uncommon that women with a supracervical hysterectomy and their ovaries in place have mini periods after a hysterectomy. During a supracervical or partial hysterectomy, they remove only a part of the uterus and leave the cervix in place. From the cervical tissue, this has the same lining as the uterus, women can still have small amounts of monthly bleeding.
Normally, during surgery, they will cauterize the inner lining of the cervix to prevent this from happening. But it can happen that some endometrial tissue remains. When can you expect mini periods to stop? They will usually stop when the ovaries stop producing hormones. If the mini periods are really bothering you, talk to your physician. He can check if it is necessary to cauterize the cervix again with silver nitrate or with a laser.
Leg numbness after hysterectomy
Some women complain about knee jerks and leg numbness after hysterectomy. This is known as femoral neuropathy and can occur after a vaginal hysterectomy or any gynecological surgery where the woman’s legs are put in stirrups. These will put the woman’s hips in an awkward position.
Excessive rotation of the hip may cause compression of the nerve that provides sensation to the leg. If you notice that your thighs are numb after surgery, you should let your doctor know. Adverse side effects of hysterectomy like leg numbness are something that can be successfully treated with physiotherapy.
Itching after hysterectomy
It is not unusual that women have problems with itching after a hysterectomy. As with many other hormonal hysterectomy side effects, this is a common symptom of menopause. With a decline in estrogen, you may notice certain skin changes.
Estrogen has many beneficial effects on our skin. It helps the skin’s to maintain its thickness and keeps the skin soft and firm. So, when estrogen levels drop during and after menopause, a woman’s skin may become drier and itchier.
Odor after hysterectomy
A small percentage of women notice a weird vaginal odor after hysterectomy. In the recovery period, old blood and dissolving suture material may be the cause of a bad smelling vagina. An offensive fishy smell is often the result of a vaginal yeast infection.
Anesthesia and the medication you get after surgery can make your urine smell different. Though, bad smelling urine may also be a sign of a urinary tract infection after hysterectomy.
Hair loss after hysterectomy
Hair loss, a side effect of hysterectomy, we may see when there is heavy bleeding or a prolonged pressure on the scalp during surgery.
But also the emotional stress before and after the surgery may cause temporary hair loss. Stress may cause your adrenal gland to produce more cortisol. High levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol may disrupt the normal growth cycle of the hair follicle.
Bleeding after intercourse after hysterectomy
After a hysterectomy, the most common cause of slight bleeding after intercourse is from granulation tissue. This granulation tissue or excess scar tissue delays the healing process of the vaginal cuff.
Roughly, one-third of all women having an abdominal hysterectomy may have problems with granulation after the surgery. Your gynecologist may want to wait for these lesions to heal spontaneously. This usually depends on how large these lesions of granulation are. If there are larger lesions, he may want to cauterize with silver nitrate.
Vaginal dryness after a hysterectomy
Most side effects of hysterectomy are associated with premature menopause. For example, vaginal dryness is a typical symptom of menopause a lot of females have to put up with. Vaginal dryness is not only uncomfortable but can make intercourse painful. This can put stress on relationships as for a lot of women this is a reason to avoid having sex. The hormonal changes after a hysterectomy make the vaginal wall thinner and reduce its muscle tone. Vaginal lubricants and topical estrogen creams can be helpful to relieve the problem of vaginal dryness.
Chronic yeast infections after hysterectomy
As we already mentioned, with the hormonal changes after hysterectomy the vaginal wall may become weaker, dryer and thinner. This means that during intercourse the tissue becomes irritated and prone to injuries. These vaginal changes make it easy for yeast and other microorganisms to flourish and the risk of infection increases.
Leaking urine after hysterectomy
Lack of bladder control is one of the side effects of a hysterectomy quite a few women have to deal with. During a hysterectomy, they cut through muscles, nerves and tissues that normally support your bladder. To maintain proper bladder function the bladder and urethra need to be sufficiently supported by these structures.
When they remove the uterus that support is often compromised. If you are leaking urine after your hysterectomy surgery you may benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy to help to restore the muscle tone of the pelvic floor and the sensation in that area.
Hysterectomy and memory loss
A large percentage of women complain of difficulty recalling names and memory lapses after hysterectomy. For the brain to function properly it requires sufficient estrogen.
Estrogen levels may affect a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps to process and retrieve memory. It also turns short-term memories into long-term memories which then, is stored somewhere else in the brain.
This is why menopausal women and women after a hysterectomy may have memory lapses or find it hard to concentrate and absorb information. You may be glad to learn that this so-called “brain fog” appears to be a temporary phase just like many other menopause symptoms.