Introduction 

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the womb (uterus). You will no longer be able to get pregnant after the operation.

If you haven't already gone through the menopause, you will also no longer have periods, regardless of your age. The menopause is when a woman's monthly periods stop, usually at around the age of 52.

Around 30,000 hysterectomies were carried out in England between 2012 and 2013. It is more common for women aged 40-50 to have a hysterectomy.

Why do I need a hysterectomy?

Hysterectomies are carried out to treat conditions that affect the female reproductive system, including:

A hysterectomy is a major operation with a long recovery time and is only considered after alternative, less invasive, treatments have been tried.

Read more about why a hysterectomy is needed.

Things to consider

If you have a hysterectomy, as well as having your womb removed, you may have to decide whether to also have your cervix or ovaries removed.

Your decision will usually be based on your personal feelings, medical history and any recommendations your doctor may have.

You should be aware of the different types of hysterectomy and their implications.

Read more information about the things to consider before having a hysterectomy.

Types of hysterectomy

There are various types of hysterectomy. The type you have depends on why you need the operation and how much of your womb and surrounding reproductive system can safely be left in place.

The main types of hysterectomy are:

  • total hysterectomy – the womb and cervix (neck of the womb) are removed; this is the most commonly performed operation
  • subtotal hysterectomy – the main body of the womb is removed, leaving the cervix in place
  • total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingectomy) and the ovaries (oophorectomy) are removed
  • radical hysterectomy – the womb and surrounding tissues are removed, including the fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands and fatty tissue

There are three ways to carry out a hysterectomy:

  • vaginal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the top of the vagina
  • abdominal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the lower abdomen
  • laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery) – where the womb is removed through several small cuts in the abdomen

Read more about how a hysterectomy is performed.

Complications of a hysterectomy

There is a small risk of experiencing heavy bleeding, infection, damage to your bladder or bowel, or a serious reaction to the general anaesthetic.

Read more about the complications of a hysterectomy.

Recovering from a hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is a major operation. You can be in hospital for up to five days following surgery, and it takes about six to eight weeks to fully recover. Recovery times can also vary depending on the type of hysterectomy.

Rest as much as possible during this time and don't lift anything heavy, such as bags of shopping. You need time for your abdominal muscles and tissues to heal.

Read more about recovering from a hysterectomy.

Surgical menopause

If your ovaries are removed during a hysterectomy, you will go through the menopause immediately after the operation, regardless of your age. This is known as a surgical menopause.

If one or both of your ovaries are left intact, there's a chance you will experience the menopause within five years of having your operation.

If you experience a surgical menopause after having a hysterectomy, you should be offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Read more about surgical menopause.

Hysterectomy

If you've been advised that you need a hysterectomy, you might have a lot of questions, such as: Do I really need this operation? How will it affect me? Are there any alternatives? Professor Lesley Regan advises.

Media last reviewed: 23/04/2014

Next review due: 23/04/2016

The female reproductive system

The female reproductive system is made up of the:

  • womb (uterus) – a pear-shaped organ in the middle of your pelvis where a baby develops; the lining of the womb is shed during a period
  • cervix – the neck of the womb, where the womb meets the vagina; the cervix is the lower part of the womb and not separate
  • vagina – a muscular tube below the cervix
  • fallopian tubes – tubes that connect the womb to the ovaries
  • ovaries – small organs by the fallopian tubes that release an egg each month

Page last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016