A hysterectomy is surgery to remove your uterus. The uterus is the part of a woman’s body where a baby grows.

There are different ways to perform a hysterectomy. Depending on the reason for the procedure, your doctor might go through your abdomen or your vagina to get to your uterus. The procedure can be done as a laparoscopic, robotic, or open surgery.

Sometimes, doctors will also remove your fallopian tubes and ovaries during a hysterectomy.

After a hysterectomy, you won’t have menstrual periods and won’t be able to get pregnant.

A hysterectomy is the second most common surgery performed on women in the United States, after a cesarean delivery. Each year, nearly 500,000 hysterectomies are done.

Read on to learn more about why you might need a hysterectomy and what risks are involved.

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that form in the uterus. They’re the most common reason for a hysterectomy.

Fibroids can cause heavy bleeding and pain. Your doctor may first recommend medications or other less-invasive procedures, such as a myomectomy, to treat fibroids. A myomectomy removes only the fibroids and leaves the uterus intact.

If other measures fail or fibroids continue to regrow and produce bothersome symptoms, a hysterectomy may be an option.

Cancer is the reason about 10 percent of all hysterectomies are performed.

A hysterectomy might be needed if you have cancer of the:

Your treatment approach will depend on the type of cancer you have, how advanced it is, and your overall health. Other options may include chemotherapy and radiation.

Sometimes, doctors recommend surgery if you have precancerous conditions as well.

You may also opt to have a hysterectomy to reduce your risk for developing cancer in the future if you test positive for the BRCA gene. People with this gene may have an increased risk for ovarian and breast cancers.

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it. Endometriosis can cause extreme pain and irregular periods. It can also lead to infertility.

Hormone therapy and medical procedures to remove endometrial tissue are usually tried before a hysterectomy.

Adenomyosis happens when the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus. This causes the uterine wall to thicken, which leads to pain and heavy bleeding.

This condition often goes away after menopause, but if your symptoms are severe, you may require treatment sooner.

Hormone therapies and pain medication are usually tried first. If they don’t work, a hysterectomy may be an option.

Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) is a bacterial infection that can lead to severe pelvic pain.

PID can usually be treated with antibiotics if it’s found early. But, if it spreads it can damage the uterus.

Your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy if you have severe PID.

Hyperplasia means the lining of your uterus is too thick. This condition may be caused by having too much estrogen.

In some cases, hyperplasia can lead to uterine cancer.

Hyperplasia can cause heavy, irregular menstrual bleeding.

Typically, treatment options include different types of hormone therapies. If your hyperplasia is severe or your doctor suspects it may develop into cancer, they may recommend a hysterectomy.

You might benefit from a hysterectomy if you regularly experience heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding.

Irregular bleeding can be caused by:

  • fibroids
  • infection
  • hormone changes
  • cancer
  • other conditions

It can be accompanied by stomach cramps and pain.

Removing the uterus is sometimes the only way to find relief from heavy bleeding. Other treatments, such as hormone therapy, are usually tried first.

Uterine prolapse happens when your uterus slips from its normal place and falls into the vagina. This condition is more common in women who’ve had multiple vaginal births. It can also affect women who are obese or who have gone through menopause.

Common symptoms in women with uterine prolapse are:

  • pelvic pressure
  • urinary issues
  • bowel problems

Treatment options often depend on how severe the prolapse is. Certain exercises and devices can be used at home. In some cases, doctors can repair the weakened pelvic tissues with minimally invasive surgery.

If these measures don’t work or aren’t good options, a hysterectomy may be the treatment of choice.

Sometimes, a hysterectomy is performed right after a vaginal or cesarean delivery. Certain complications, such as severe bleeding, may mean your doctor has to take out your uterus.

This outcome is very rare but it can be lifesaving.

Placenta accreta happens during pregnancy when the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall. This condition can be very serious, but it often doesn’t cause symptoms.

In almost all cases, a cesarean delivery followed by a hysterectomy is performed to prevent blood loss that happens when the placenta separates.

While a hysterectomy is considered one of the safest surgeries, there are risks involved with any procedure.

Potential problems include:

  • infection
  • heavy bleeding during or after the procedure
  • injury to other organs
  • blood clots
  • breathing or heart complications from anesthesia
  • bowel blockage
  • trouble urinating
  • death

Serious complications are more common in abdominal hysterectomies compared to other, less-invasive types. Remember, after a hysterectomy, you won’t get your period again.

Some women experience a loss of interest in sex or become depressed after a hysterectomy. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider if this happens to you.

If you have your ovaries removed as part of the procedure and you haven’t gone through menopause yet, the surgery could cause you to experience menopause symptoms, such as:

  • hot flashes
  • vaginal dryness
  • mood swings

Ovary removal also puts you at risk for developing other medical conditions like bone loss, heart disease, and urinary incontinence.

A hysterectomy can improve your quality of life.

For some women, the procedure stops heavy bleeding and relieves pain for good. Others have the surgery to prevent or treat cancer.

Talk to your doctor about how a hysterectomy might improve your symptoms.

Having a hysterectomy is a big decision. It’s a major surgery that can change your body forever. You may go into early menopause and you won’t be able to have children after this procedure.

You might want to ask your doctor the following questions before considering a hysterectomy:

  • Do I need a hysterectomy?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of having a hysterectomy for my particular condition?
  • What other options are available?
  • If I don’t have a hysterectomy, what will happen?
  • How can a hysterectomy relieve my symptoms?
  • What kind of hysterectomy will I have?
  • What are the symptoms of menopause?
  • Will I need medications after surgery?
  • What changes to my mood will it have?

If you need a hysterectomy but still want to have children, make sure you discuss your options with your healthcare provider. Adoption and surrogacy are two potential options you may consider.

A hysterectomy is a common procedure that can improve symptoms caused by many different medical conditions. In some cases, the surgery can be lifesaving.

You won’t be able to get pregnant following the surgery and you may go into early menopause. But, the procedure can relieve heavy or irregular bleeding and pelvic pain.

Talk to your doctor if you think you might benefit from having a hysterectomy. There are lots of factors to consider before deciding to have this surgery.