Women undergo hysterectomies for various reasons, from uterine fibroids to certain forms of cancer. Different types of hysterectomies exist: full, partial and radical. With a full or radical hysterectomy, the entirety of the uterus is removed, sometimes along with other organs in the case of a radical hysterectomy. If you’re wondering, “Will I still have a period after a partial hysterectomy,” the answer is both yes and no.
A partial hysterectomy still constitutes major surgery, and many women cease menstruating after undergoing the procedure. Others, however, continue to bleed on a monthly or occasional basis.
What Is a Partial Hysterectomy, and What Does It Treat?
The Greek root of the word hysterectomy, “hystera,” means uterus. In a misogynistic twist, the word shares a common origin with hysteria — apparently, the ancient ones never heard of feminism. In any case, the suffix “ectomy” means “to remove,” so it follows a partial hysterectomy refers to a limited removal of the uterus.
In a partial hysterectomy, surgeons remove the top part of a woman’s uterus. This procedure is used to treat various female reproductive health woes. Depending on the underlying reasons for going under the knife, the doctor may remove the majority of the uterus but leave the cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries intact. In others, physicians remove only the portion of the uterus causing problems.
One reason women undergo partial hysterectomies is to combat uterine fibroids. Fibroids are painful growths of tissue in the uterus that cause considerable cramping and can rupture. Uterine fibroids do not increase the risk of cancer, including those most commonly seen in women such as cervical cancer and ovarian cancer. But they can result in excruciating pain during menstruation.
Severe cases of endometriosis mark yet another reason why some women go under the knife. Endometriosis occurs when the uterine lining grows on organs other than the inside wall of the uterus. Typically, endometriosis impacts nearby organs such as the bladder, but can spread anywhere in the body.
More aggressive diseases, such as cancer, require full or radical hysterectomies. One benefit of a partial hysterectomy is that, unlike in full and radical hysterectomies, the woman’s sexual desire rarely changes. Because the cervix remains intact, her vaginal opening stays the same, and since the ovaries are still there, she continues to produce reproductive hormones at previous levels.
Will I Still Have a Period After a Partial Hysterectomy?
Since a woman’s menstrual period occurs when she sheds her uterine lining after not conceiving that month, many find themselves asking, “Will I still have a period after a partial hysterectomy, and if so, why?” The answer hinges on how much of the uterus, if any, is left intact.
If the surgeon removes the entirety of the uterus other than the cervical area, most women cease bleeding within six weeks post operation. However, if the doctor leaves a portion of the uterus in place, the remainder grows endometrial tissue and sheds it monthly, although the amount of the flow generally decreases significantly. This is, of course, assuming the ovaries also remain intact and continue to produce hormones.
It’s important to understand you will not be able to become pregnant after having a partial hysterectomy, even if you still bleed. If an egg were to be fertilized, there is no way for it to implant in the uterine wall. A slightly heavier than normal period is usually the only evidence an egg ever became fertilized at all.
Adjusting to Life Following a Partial Hysterectomy
Due to the loss of fertility, some women find themselves experiencing depression after undergoing a hysterectomy, even if they have completed childbearing. Because society has long equated a woman’s worth with her ability to procreate, it’s understandable the loss of this would create feelings of distress. Due to this, health care providers, as well as your support system, should remain alert to the possibility and learn the signs of depression in women:
- Feeling tired and listless. Some women suffering from depression sleep too much while others lie awake at night tossing and turning. Even when she is well rested, a depressed woman may feel exhausted.
- Loss of interest in sex and previously enjoyable activities. Doctors recommend women wait at least six weeks before resuming sexual intercourse following a partial hysterectomy. However, some women fail to renew interest after this time passes. Others lose interest in things they previously loved, such as gardening or exercising.
- Acting withdrawn and sullen. While men tend to express depression through anger, women tend to withdraw and become silent and quiet. Not all depressed women cry often, though some do.
- Giving away favorite possessions or talk of suicide. This is a serious risk requiring immediate medical attention. Never dismiss a woman’s talk of suicide as an attempt to get attention. Yes, it may be one — but it is a cry for help, not the whining of a drama queen. If a woman talks about killing herself or begins giving away her most prized possessions, contact a crisis line for advice and call the police to do a welfare check if you cannot be with her.
With adequate support, you can and will bounce back from having a partial hysterectomy. Make sure you have assistance in the weeks following the procedure. It will be beneficial to have friends swing by and help prep dinner, tidy your home and, most importantly, discuss how you’re feeling.
A Partial Hysterectomy Can Give You a New Lease on Life
While adjusting to having a hysterectomy can take time, you will likely rejoice in the relief you feel. Even if you still experience bleeding or spotting monthly, for those who have completed childbearing, the procedure can elevate your enjoyment of sex due to the lack of fear of getting pregnant unintentionally. Knowing what to expect and being prepared are key to a successful outcome from this surgery.