A hysterectomy is surgery to remove the uterus (womb) — the hollow organ where babies grow and develop during pregnancy. Having this procedure can relieve pain and other symptoms from conditions like fibroids or endometriosis. And if you have uterine or cervical cancer, it could save your life.
Any surgery can have both short-term and long-term side effects. A hysterectomy can cause side effects like pain and bleeding. Once you have this procedure, you won’t be able to carry a child. A hysterectomy can also impact your sex life in the weeks following the procedure. Yet it shouldn’t prevent you from having sex — and enjoying it — once you’re healed.
Here’s a look at how a hysterectomy can affect your sexuality and what you can do to ensure you don’t lose this important part of your life.
Most of the surgery-related side effects should go away and your body should heal within two months. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that you not insert anything in your vagina for the first six weeks after your surgery.
Doctors can perform different types of hysterectomy:
- Total hysterectomy. This is the most common type. It removes the whole uterus, including the bottom part, the cervix. The surgeon might also remove your ovaries and fallopian tubes.
- Partial (also called subtotal or supracervical) hysterectomy. Only the top part of the uterus is removed. The cervix is left in place.
- Radical hysterectomy. The surgeon removes the uterus, cervix, tissue on either side of the cervix, and the top part of the vagina. This type is often used to treat cancer of the cervix or uterus.
You might have some light bleeding and discharge after your surgery, and you’ll no longer get regular menstrual periods. Pain, burning, and itching around the incision site are also normal. If your ovaries were removed, you’ll likely have menopause-like side effects like hot flashes and night sweats.
A hysterectomy will put your sex life on pause for a few weeks, but it shouldn’t end it. According to one review of studies, most women said their sex life either stayed the same or improved after the procedure. They were finally free from the pain or heavy bleeding that caused them to have the surgery.
Having your ovaries removed during the procedure could dampen your desire for sex, though. That’s because your ovaries produce testosterone and estrogen — hormones that are integral to your libido.
Can I still have an orgasm?
Some women do report that they have less intense orgasms or no orgasms at all after surgery. This is because removing the uterus can cut nerves that enable you to climax.
Also, the cervix contains nerves that are stimulated during sex. If your cervix was removed during the procedure, the surgeon may have cut these nerves. This is rare and not the norm for most people who have the surgery, though.
Will sex still feel the same?
A hysterectomy shouldn’t affect sensation in your vagina. However, removing your ovaries will put you into menopause, which can dry out the tissues of the vagina and make sex more painful.
What’s the safest way to start having sex again?
First, make sure you wait at least six weeks — or as long as your doctor recommends — before you start having sex again. Take your time easing back into sex.
If vaginal dryness is making sex too painful, ask your doctor about using vaginal estrogen creams, rings, or tablets. Or, try a water-based or silicone-based lubricant like K-Y or Astroglide when you have sex.
If you’re having difficulty getting back to your normal sex life after a hysterectomy, try these tips to get back on track:
1. Take your time
When you have sex, don’t rush. Give yourself time to get aroused.
Try different positions until you find one that’s most comfortable. Explore options other than vaginal sex, like oral or manual stimulation.
3. Be honest
Be open with your partner about what feels good and what hurts.
If these tips don’t work, consider seeing a sex therapist or counselor with your partner.
Once you pass the six-week mark after your surgery, you should be able to go back to a normal sex life. If you’re still having problems with arousal, orgasm, or comfort during sex, don’t just accept it. See your doctor.
Here are a few questions to ask your doctor:
- What’s the safest way to ease back into sex after my surgery?
- What should I do if sex is painful?
- How can I overcome a lack of desire?
- What should I do if my partner is getting frustrated or isn’t helping?
Together, you and your doctor can strategize ways to make your sex life as good as — or even better than it was — before your surgery.