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8 Hysterectomy Myths to Stop Believing

From recovery time to your post-surgery sex life, we’re debunking some of the common misconceptions.

Medically reviewed in December 2020

Updated on November 5, 2021

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Hysterectomies, which are surgeries to remove the uterus, are extremely common in the United States. In fact, they’re the most frequently-performed surgical procedure for reproductive-aged American women, after cesarean sections. You may have heard, though, perhaps from older female relatives, that the procedure is one to dread.

It’s true that hysterectomies used to be major, invasive surgeries with big drawbacks like long recovery times, so your great aunt probably wasn’t exaggerating. But modern medicine has come a long way in the last 30 years. Today, the procedure may be effective for those with conditions including uterine fibroids, endometriosis, bleeding, and uterine cancer.

Whether you’re weighing your treatment options or about to go in for surgery, clearing up some of these persistent hysterectomy myths can help you stress less.

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Myth: A hysterectomy will take away your womanhood

Fact: A hysterectomy won’t make you any less of a woman.

“There’s a strong identity associated with the uterus, so women think removing it is going to change their life dramatically and they won’t be a true woman anymore,” says David Forschner, MD, an OBGYN with Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, Colorado.

It’s true that the uterus is a vital part of a woman’s body. Your uterus is the source of your period each month when it sheds its lining, and it’s responsible for carrying a pregnancy. But removing it won't affect your hormones or change who you are, explains Dr. Forschner.

If you’re struggling emotionally because you can’t have children post-hysterectomy, reach out to a counselor or support group for help. Your healthcare provider (HCP) can point you in the direction of helpful resources, too.

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Myth: You’ll start menopause right after surgery

Fact: Unless your ovaries are removed, a hysterectomy won’t trigger menopause.

Natural menopause is a process marked by going a full year without having a menstrual period. Beginning in your late 30s and into your 40s, your ovaries produce the female hormone estrogen more erratically than before. Menopause, which typically occurs in your early 50s, means your ovaries have stopped making estrogen completely.

If your ovaries are removed for any reason (a procedure called an oophorectomy), that would send you into menopause immediately.

But since a hysterectomy typically only involves the removal of the uterus, it doesn’t automatically result in menopause. “The ovaries can be removed at the same time as a hysterectomy, but often they’re left in place,” explains Forschner. “You would only start menopause after a hysterectomy if we took both ovaries out.”

Even though your periods will stop after a hysterectomy, that doesn’t mean menopause has arrived. Your body will likely keep making estrogen until around the time your hormone levels naturally begin to decline.

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Myth: You won’t want to—or won’t be able to—have sex

Fact: You’ll still be able to have sex and orgasms may feel even better.

You might have heard that a hysterectomy will kill your sex drive. But a hysterectomy would only affect your sex hormones—estrogen and testosterone—if you also have your ovaries removed along with the procedure.

That said, in most cases, you’ll want to wait at least six weeks after a hysterectomy before having sex to give your body time to recover. Once your HCP gives you the all clear, you’re free to have intercourse again.

Sex might feel a little different since you won’t have contractions in your uterus during orgasms anymore, but you can still have orgasms, and good ones at that. Many people actually find that sex after a hysterectomy is better, since the procedure can resolve issues like bleeding or pain that may have interfered with pleasure before.

“Whatever led us to do the hysterectomy was probably making you uncomfortable during sex,” says Forschner. “After surgery, you’ll be able to appreciate how much better sex can be.”

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Myth: It’s always a major surgery with a tough recovery

Fact: The recovery time varies based on the type of hysterectomy.

While there are different kinds of hysterectomies, depending on the type you get, recovery time usually doesn’t exceed six weeks.

The least risky type with the quickest recovery is a vaginal hysterectomy, says Forschner. This procedure involves taking out the uterus through your vagina. It’s recommended as the first option whenever possible. You’ll spend the day and maybe one night in the hospital. Upon returning home, you’ll want to take it easy for two to four weeks as you recover.

The recovery time is similar for a laparoscopic hysterectomy, during which a surgeon makes small cuts in your belly, then sends a tiny camera and tools for surgery through those incisions to remove your uterus. The uterus may be removed either in small pieces through the incisions, or through the vagina, which is known as a laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy.

An abdominal hysterectomy, also known as a traditional hysterectomy, involves surgical removal of the uterus through an incision made in the lower part of the abdomen. This is usually a last-resort option and is typically only recommended if your uterus is large or if there are adhesions, or abnormal scar tissue. Since it is an open surgery, this type of hysterectomy does require more time in the hospital, and full recovery usually takes about six weeks.

No matter what type of surgery you have, your HCP will guide you through the recovery process. 

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Myth: You’ll be trapped in bed for weeks

Fact: Moving around after surgery is better for your health.

After surgery, your impulse may be to take it easy. Instead, your HCP may encourage you to get out of bed that same day.

“We recommend not exerting yourself too much,” says Forschner, “but we want you up and moving around the day of the surgery. Walking around will prevent blood clots, not to mention improve your healing by getting good blood flow to your wounds.”

Ask for help before getting out of bed. Start slowly and try to increase your walking distance a little bit every day. Also be sure to avoid any heavy lifting. With your HCP’s approval, you can usually get back to your regular exercise routine within six weeks post-surgery.

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Myth: A hysterectomy will make your vagina fall out

Fact: It can actually treat or help prevent vaginal prolapse.

Vaginal prolapse is when the muscles and tissues around your vagina get weak or tear, causing your vagina to descend from its usual place. In some cases, the uterus may hang down out of the vagina’s opening. Vaginal childbirth (especially multiple births), obesity, and menopause can up your risk of prolapse.

If your uterus falls, prolapse may actually be the reason you have a hysterectomy in the first place, says Forschner. It’s possible to have a prolapse after a hysterectomy, too, but surgeons now take extra steps to suspend, or tie up, the vagina during surgery to keep that from happening.

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Myth: You’re going to have a big scar.

Fact: It depends on the type of hysterectomy, but it will heal regardless.

Since vaginal hysterectomies are done through the vagina, the scarring that occurs is usually internal and not noticeable. Laparoscopic hysterectomies do involve very small incisions, so you may have some scarring in those areas, but not a lot.

If you need an abdominal hysterectomy, however, you’re likely to have a scar post-surgery where the incision was made. Sometimes surgeons make a vertical incision, while other times they’ll use a horizontal, or “bikini line,” incision.

No matter which type of scar you have, there are treatment options, both dermatological and natural, to try to minimize the appearance of scarring.

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Myth: A hysterectomy is your only option

Fact: It depends on your individual health circumstances.

“Very rarely are there no alternatives,” says Forschner. For example, if your uterus has prolapsed, or fallen down, physical therapy may be able to help, as can using a pessary, a device you wear in the vagina to support the uterus. For other conditions, like endometriosis, your HCP might be able to suggest other surgeries or medications.

People who have uterine cancer or experience dangerous bleeding may need a hysterectomy right away. But even in these cases, your HCP may be able to recommend other treatments to try first. “Removing the uterus should be the last resort in many cases,” emphasizes Forschner.

You and your healthcare team can talk through your options. You should also do your own research and ask any questions you have. Remember: Even if you do end up needing a hysterectomy, there are often fewer drawbacks to the procedure than you might realize.

Sources:

Danesh M, Hamzehgardeshi Z, Moosazadeh M, Shabani-Asrami F. The effect of hysterectomy on women’s sexual function: a narrative review. Med Arch. 2015;69(6):387-392.
Coolen A-LWM, Bui BN, Dietz V, et al. The treatment of post-hysterectomy vaginal vault prolapse: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Urogynecol J. 2017;28(12):1767-1783.
Smith TA, Poteat TA, Shobeiri SA. Pelvic organ prolapse: an overview. JAAPA. 2014;27(3):20-24; quiz 33.
The North American Menopause Society. Menopause 101: A primer for the perimenopausal. Accessed on October 28, 2021.
Office on Women’s Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Hysterectomy. Last updated April 1, 2019.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Hysterectomy. Last updated January 2021.
Women’s Health Concern. Prolapse: Uterine and vaginal. Published August 2021.

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