​What Is A Hysterectomy—And How Common Is It For Young Women?

by | Feb 19, 2018 | Health

Lena Dunham recently revealed that she underwent a total hysterectomy to try to end her endometriosis pain.

Lena, 31, wrote an essay for Vogue saying she decided to go through with the procedure after “years of complex surgeries measuring in the double digits” and attempts at “pelvic floor therapy, massage therapy, pain therapy, colour therapy, [and] acupuncture,” to manage her pain

Lena says that she can’t carry a child now, but she still has her ovaries. “Soon I’ll start exploring whether my ovaries, which remain someplace inside me in that vast cavern of organs and scar tissue, have eggs,” she wrote. “Adoption is a thrilling truth I’ll pursue with all my might.”

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy, which is a surgery to remove the uterus, is often associated with older women, but young women do get them here and there, says women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider.

There are a few reasons why a young woman might get a hysterectomy, including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pelvic support problems, chronic pelvic pain, gynaecological cancer, and abnormal uterine bleeding, she says.

It’s worth pointing out that not all hysterectomies are created equal. During a total hysterectomy, the entire uterus—including the cervix—is removed. For a partial hysterectomy, the upper part of the uterus is removed but the cervix is left in place. With a radical hysterectomy, the uterus and structures around it (like the ovaries) are all removed. This is usually recommended if a woman has cancer or it’s suspected, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Types of hysterectomies

There are two main ways a hysterectomy can be performed: By removing a woman’s uterus through the vagina, or through an incision in her abdomen with laparoscopic surgery, says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a minimally-invasive gynaecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

Women will typically have some pain for a few days after surgery, Shepherd says, and discharge and bleeding from their vagina for several weeks. There are a few potential side effects, including constipation, temporary problems emptying the bladder, fever, and blood clots, ACOG says. Some women may also feel depressed that they can no longer carry a child, the organization says, while other feel relieved that they’re no longer in pain.

Worth pointing out: Women are often laid up for a while after having a hysterectomy. If you have a vaginal hysterectomy, you may be out of work for three to four weeks, and with a laparoscopic hysterectomy, it could take up to five weeks, Shepherd says. Women also aren’t supposed to put anything in their vagina for six weeks post-op, ACOG says, so tampons and sex are off the table for a while.

How Common Are Hysterectomies?

Hysterectomies are relatively common: About 500,000 women in the U.S. undergo hysterectomies every year, and it is the second most common surgery after childbirth, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

Still, the procedure is much more rare among young women. Between 2011 and 2015, only 3 percent of women ages 15 to 44 had undergone a hysterectomy. Among women ages 40 to 44, that number increases to 10 percent.

If you have endometriosis and are considering a hysterectomy, it’s really important to have a detailed conversation with your doctor first, Shepherd says. “There are so many options today to treat endometriosis through medical and surgical management that a hysterectomy may not be the only option, and sometimes should only be considered at the last resort,” she says.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com

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