I have learned a lot about hysterectomies this year. (Think I should put that on my resume?) Did you know there are several ways to remove a woman’s reproductive system? Did you know it can be done without opening up the abdomen? Who knew! Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned.
Types of Hysterectomies
Total Abdominal Hysterectomy (TAH) – This is the ‘cut you open’ kind of surgery. This is the best way for the surgeon to see the entire area, and is usually done only if cancer is involved. Obviously, this method is the one to avoid due to the invasiveness and longer recovery time.
Vaginal Hysterectomy – This is just what it sounds like. The uterus, and possibly the cervix are removed from the abdominal cavity through the vagina. No incisions are made in the abdomen. This is good if you just need to have the uterus removed, such as a prolapsed uterus. However, if there are other problems, the surgeon cannot see the entire system very well from this vantage point. (There’s probably a better way for me to say that. . .)
Laparoscopically Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy (LAVH) – This method is similar to a vaginal hysterectomy, in that the organs are removed through the vagina. However, surgeon also makes a couple of tiny incisions in the abdomen, through which he inserts a camera and other surgical tools. This allows the doctor to get a more complete look.
Laparoscopic Supracervical Hysterectomy (LSH) – This is very similar to the LAVH, except that the organs are removed through the abdomen, not the vagina.
My Experience with a Hysterectomy
I had a LAVH hysterectomy. My entire reproductive system was removed through my vagina – ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and uterus. I spent 24 hours post-surgery with an IV in my arm through which I could summon pain relieving medicine as necessary. I didn’t use it much. I had a catheter in, and vaginal packing, but I felt none of this and had no discomfort! I was allowed to eat and drink anything I wanted and did not get up to use the restroom because of the catheter. That was kind of nice, actually…
The next day, the nurses removed everything, again with no pain. My post-surgery recovery was unremarkable. I did take it very easy – after all, an entire system was removed from my body. I did get a yeast infection, but as it turned out that was very normal. Since I couldn’t use the OTC cream vaginally, I had to get an oral medication. But other than that and being a little tired, I had no ill effects.
The worst thing about the experience was not having anyone to talk to about all of my ‘silly’ thoughts and questions. I did not know anybody that had had a complete hysterectomy except my mom, 20+years before, and she had the TAH. So her experience was different. Some things you just don’t want to talk to your doctor about, and some things you just don’t want to talk to someone face to face about. Example: Is it normal to feel really, um . . . ‘frisky’ after surgery, and what can you do about it?
I found an amazing, free resource to solve this problem: Hyster Sisters. This is a forum by women and for women who are facing, going through or recovering from hysterectomies. This is a tremendous resource for asking those personal questions. You don’t have to use your real name, and you will never meet these women, so it is such a safe haven for all of those embarrassing topics. Hyster Sisters do a fantastic job of keeping the discussions on point, so there are no tangents there. I highly recommend anyone who has to think about a hysterectomy to join the Hyster Sisters community.
All in all, my hysterectomy experience was so pleasant and restful, with people waiting on me hand and foot. And Hyster Sisters provided the sisterhood support I needed. In a way, I kind of wish I had another reproductive system to remove!
Photo credit to aussiegall on Flickr