After a hysterectomy, some women experience the following side effects:
- Pain. As with all major operations, you will have some pain or discomfort. It is best to let your doctor or nurse know when you are feeling uncomfortable – don’t wait until the pain becomes severe. You will be administered pain relief medication through an intravenous drip. You may be able to use a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) system, which allows you to choose when you receive a dose of medication. Some people receive an epidural to relieve pain. An epidural is a form of regional anaesthesia involving injection of drugs into the spine.
- Tiredness. Women usually feel extremely tired after a hysterectomy.
- Nausea, vomiting, bladder and bowel problems. Some women may have problems with nausea and vomiting after surgery, and some may have bladder and bowel problems. The doctor may restrict the woman’s diet to liquids at first, with a gradual return to solid food.
- Adhesions. Adhesions, or internal scar tissue that glues together tissues in the body, may form. Sometimes this can be painful. Adhesions to the bowel or bladder may need to be treated with further surgery.
- Lymph fluid build-up. If you have had lymph nodes removed (lymphadenectomy), parts of your body may swell because your lymphatic system is not working properly. This is called lymphoedema. Lymphoedema symptoms may not appear for over two years after surgery. Swelling in your limbs may be reduced with gentle massage toward your heart, special compression garments and gentle exercise.
- Not able to become pregnant. After a hysterectomy you will not be able to become pregnant.
- Menopause. If you have had a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and were not menopausal before the surgery, the removal of your ovaries will cause menopause. Hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause caused by surgery may be more severe than those caused by natural menopause. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help reduce your symptoms. You will need to talk to your gynaecologic oncologist about the benefits and risks of HRT. Because cancer of the uterus can be hormone-sensitive, HRT may not be suitable for some women.
- Effects on your sex life. The physical and emotional changes you experience may also affect how you feel about sex and how you respond sexually.
Recovery from surgery
A hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure, and you may be in hospital for up to seven days. Your recovery time will depend on different factors, such as how much tissue was removed and the stage of your gestational trophoblastic disease.
Ask your doctor what to expect when you wake up from the operation and for advice on rest, lifting, driving and sex during your recovery.