You will be advised not to have sex for around four to six weeks after having a hysterectomy. If you don’t feel ready after six weeks, don’t worry – different women feel ready at different times. It takes time to get back to normal after an operation, but having a hysterectomy can have a strong emotional impact too, which can affect how you feel about sex.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a study of 413 women in the Netherlands found that sexual wellbeing improved after having a hysterectomy, and that there was some reduction in sexual problems (such as pain) after the surgery. However, around one in five women developed new sexual problems after having a hysterectomy. If you experience problems with sex after your operation, don’t suffer in silence. There is help available – you can talk to your GP, a counsellor or an organisation such as the Hysterectomy Association.
Feeling sexually attractive
A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus (womb), and sometimes the ovaries, fallopian tubes or cervix as well. Which organs are removed will depend on your own personal circumstances and the reasons you’re having a hysterectomy. There are also many different types of hysterectomy, which will impact how it is performed and what is removed.
Losing the uterus can cause women to feel less womanly after their operation, or about losing their sexual attractiveness. Many women also talk about feelings of loss or sadness after a hysterectomy. However, these feelings should pass. You may find it helps to focus on your recovery – eating healthily, getting some exercise (your doctor will tell you how much activity you should aim for) and talking to your partner or friends about how you’re feeling.
If you’re finding it hard to cope with these emotions, talk to your GP or consultant. You may be able to have counselling to help you work through your feelings. Find a counsellor near you.
It can also help to read about how other women have coped with similar experiences. You can read about women’s experiences of hysterectomy at healthtalkonline.
Sex and menopause
Having your ovaries removed will trigger the menopause, whatever your age. The change in hormone levels that occur during the menopause can affect your sex life. Read more about sex after menopause and how to deal with any problems.
Some women have less interest in sex after having a hysterectomy. If this happens to you, your interest in sex may return as your recovery progresses. If you and your partner feel it’s a problem, talk about it together so that it doesn't become an unspoken issue between you. You can also talk to your GP or find a counsellor who can offer help with sexual problems. There are also some useful tips from a psychosexual therapist on our talking about sex page.
Lack of sex drive can be made worse by depression, menopausal symptoms, relationship problems and stress. These problems are often temporary, but if symptoms of the menopause or depression persist, see a doctor. Treating menopausal symptoms may boost your sex drive indirectly by improving your general wellbeing and energy levels.
Read more about keeping the lust alive.
Sensation and orgasm
Having a hysterectomy doesn’t mean you can’t have an orgasm. You still have your clitoris and labia, which are highly sensitive. It’s not known what role the cervix plays in orgasm – some experts have argued that removing the cervix can have an adverse affect, but others have found that it doesn’t.
In a study comparing different surgical methods of hysterectomy, a number of women noticed reduced sexual sensation. This included reduced feeling when their partner penetrated their vagina, a dry vagina and less intense orgasms. If, before hysterectomy, you had noticeable uterine contractions during orgasm you may find you don't experience these anymore.
If your hysterectomy has made your vagina feel drier than it used to be, try using a sexual lubricant. You can buy these over the counter at a pharmacy.
Your surgeon will have advised you to do pelvic floor exercises to help your recovery. These exercises can also tone up the muscles of your vagina and help improve sexual sensation. Read more about pelvic floor exercises.
Other women in the surgical study mentioned above stated that their hysterectomy had removed their pre-surgery symptoms (such as pain), and they had a greater sense of wellbeing and happiness.