A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus (and sometimes other reproductive organs) for medical reasons. The cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and even part of the vagina may also be taken out. It’s a common operation for fibroids, (the noncancerous growths that 80 percent of Black women are projected to have by the age of 50), cancer, endometriosis, etc. About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the United States. However many women are often unaware that there are alternative methods to ease the pain and/or heavy bleeding often caused by fibroids.
Why are hysterectomies performed?
If a woman has invasive cancer of the cervix, ovaries, or uterus, her doctor might prescribe a hysterectomy to save her life. In such a serious situation, there may be no alternative. In addition, a hysterectomy is sometimes the only option for women with very large uterine fibroids or ovarian cysts, advanced cases of pelvic inflammatory disease, and certain complications during pregnancy.
But the operation is also used to treat many conditions, such as excessive menstrual bleeding or moderate-sized uterine fibroids, for which less invasive procedures are available. If your doctor has advised a hysterectomy for a problem that isn’t life-threatening, it’s important to know that you may have other options.
Why should you seek alternatives to a hysterectomy?
If you are of childbearing age, perhaps the most important reason is that you would no longer be able to have a baby. Women who want to preserve this ability need to see if they have options besides hysterectomy.
And though doctors used to think that women’s reproductive organs were valuable only for conception and gestation, recent research shows that the hormones produced by your ovaries may benefit your health even after you’ve gone through menopause.
Finally, consider the possibility that your sex life might change somewhat. Between 10 and 40 percent of women who have a hysterectomy report some loss of sexual desire or function after a hysterectomy, according to various studies. One recent study, however, found little difference in sexual satisfaction between women who’d had a hysterectomy and those who hadn’t. In some cases, the drop in libido seems to be linked with changes in hormone levels and due to the absence of the uterus, whose contractions during orgasm are thought to make the climax more satisfying.
How do you know if you’re a good candidate for alternative treatment?
If you have uterine fibroids, menstrual bleeding that’s unusually heavy and goes on for more than a week, chronic pelvic pain, prolapse of the uterus, or endometriosis, you probably can explore treatments besides hysterectomy. These will likely include drug therapy and less invasive forms of surgery.
What are the alternatives to hysterectomy?
It depends on your condition. Here are some possibilities: