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Hysterectomy can cause some short-term and long-term effects that may affect your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Everyone’s recovery is different and not everyone gets all these side effects, but it can help to be prepared. Your healthcare team will explain potential side effects to you in more detail.
On this page:
In this section:
During a hysterectomy, there is a risk of complications such as:
These complications can normally be treated during the surgery.
After a hysterectomy, you can expect some pain where your surgeon made the cut. This can last for about 4 to 8 weeks, although it should get better day-by-day.
The level of pain varies from person to person. If you are in a lot of pain or find it is affecting your day-to-day life, talk to your healthcare team. They can advise on prescribed pain medication or over-the-counter pain medication, offer reassurance based on your medical history and, if needed, will be able to check you are healing properly.
You will probably have some light bleeding from your vagina and more discharge than usual. This can last for up to 6 weeks after surgery. It is best to avoid tampons while this is happening – use a period pad instead.
You must tell your healthcare team straight away if you:
These may be signs of an infection, which your healthcare team can treat.
You may have bladder or bowel problems after a hysterectomy. This is because the surgery can damage them.
Research has shown that in women and people who have a hysterectomy, the risk of damage to:
Some symptoms of this damage tend to get better on their own between 6 to 12 months after surgery, such as a lack of sensation in your bladder. Others might last for longer, including needing to go for a wee more often or a feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly.
We also know that between 7 and 9 in 100 (7% to 9%) women and people who have had a hysterectomy still have bowel problems, including constipation, 1 year after surgery.
It’s important to let your healthcare team know about any side effects so you can get treatment.
We have more detailed information about bowel and bladder changes on another page. The information is about these changes after pelvic radiotherapy, but some of the suggestions for managing the changes may be useful for you too.
You may find that your sex life is affected after a hysterectomy. This may be because of the surgery itself, or the emotional impact of being diagnosed with cancer and having treatment. This is common and it can take some time to recover, but things usually do get better.
You might worry about whether sex will feel the same after hysterectomy. If you were able to have orgasms before, you should be able to have them again. Your vagina will be shorter after the operation, but it can stretch using dilation therapy or during penetrative sex. You could try vaginal lubrication – this can be prescribed by your GP, or you can buy it at a chemist, supermarket or order online.
It can help to start off gently. If you find things uncomfortable, wait a week and then try again. Any discomfort or pain should get better over time. If it does not, tell your healthcare team so they can support you.
If you had your ovaries removed, you will start to go through the menopause. This can cause many symptoms including:
There are ways to treat or manage these symptoms.
After a hysterectomy, you won’t be able to get pregnant or give birth to a child or more children. It is important to think about this as part of making decisions about treatment. You can talk to your healthcare team about other ways to have a child.
Swellings filled with fluid can develop in your stomach (abdomen) after a hysterectomy. These may be lymphocysts or lymphoceles. Sometimes they go away on their own, but if they are larger or causing discomfort, your surgeon may drain them using local anaesthetic and a needle.
After hysterectomy, you might have some swelling in your:
This is called lymphoedema. It is caused by a build-up of lymph fluid that can’t drain away because the lymph nodes have been removed. It is more likely to happen if you have had radiotherapy as well as surgery.
Any type of surgery for cervical cancer can have a huge impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Your healthcare team, both at the hospital and at your GP surgery, are there to support you with any questions or worries you have.
Remember that we are here for you too, whether you are waiting to have surgery, are in recovery, or are years past it. Our trained volunteers can listen and help you understand what’s going on via our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000.
Our 1:1 service offers a private way to get support over email, phone call or video call. We can talk through your personal situation, as well as helping you process your feelings and think about next steps. We also welcome partners and family members to use our 1:1 service, so if you are a loved one reading this or think yours would benefit from some extra support, get in touch.
Sometimes connecting with others who have gone through a similar experience can be helpful. Our online Forum lets our community give and get support. You can read through the messages or post your own – whichever feels most comfortable.
If you have general questions about surgery for cervical cancer, our panel of medical experts may be able to help. They can’t give you answers about your individual situation or health – it’s best to speak with your GP or healthcare team for that.
Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it.
We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]