What you can expect
Talk with your doctor about what to expect during and after a vaginal hysterectomy, including physical and emotional effects.
During the procedure
You’ll lie on your back, in a position similar to the one you’re in for a Pap test. You might have a urinary catheter inserted to empty your bladder. A member of your surgical team will clean the surgical area with a sterile solution before surgery.
To perform the hysterectomy:
- Your surgeon makes an incision inside your vagina to get to the uterus
- Using long instruments, your surgeon clamps the uterine blood vessels and separates your uterus from the connective tissue, ovaries and fallopian tubes
- Your uterus is removed through the vaginal opening, and absorbable stitches are used to control any bleeding inside the pelvis
Except in cases of suspected uterine cancer, the surgeon might cut an enlarged uterus into smaller pieces and remove it in sections (morcellation).
Laparoscopic or robotic hysterectomy
You might be a candidate for a laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH) or robotic hysterectomy. Both procedures allow your surgeon to remove the uterus vaginally while being able to see your pelvic organs through a slender viewing instrument called a laparoscope.
Your surgeon performs most of the procedure through small abdominal incisions aided by long, thin surgical instruments inserted through the incisions. Your surgeon then removes the uterus through an incision made in your vagina.
Your surgeon might recommend LAVH or robotic hysterectomy if you have scar tissue on your pelvic organs from prior surgeries or from endometriosis.
After the procedure
After surgery, you’ll be in a recovery room for one to two hours and in the hospital overnight. Some women are able to go home the day of the surgery.
You’ll take medication for pain. Your health care team will encourage you to get up and move as soon as you’re able.
It’s normal to have bloody vaginal discharge for several days to weeks after a hysterectomy, so you’ll need to wear sanitary pads.
How you’ll feel physically
Recovery after vaginal hysterectomy is shorter and less painful than it is after an abdominal hysterectomy. A full recovery might take three to four weeks.
Even if you feel recovered, don’t lift anything heavy — more than 20 pounds (9.1 kilograms) — or have vaginal intercourse until six weeks after surgery.
Contact your doctor if pain worsens or if you develop nausea, vomiting or bleeding that’s heavier than a menstrual period.
How you’ll feel emotionally
After a hysterectomy, you might feel relief because you no longer have heavy bleeding or pelvic pain.
For most women, there’s no change in sexual function after hysterectomy. But for some women, heightened sexual satisfaction occurs after hysterectomy — perhaps because they no longer have pain during intercourse.
You might feel a sense of loss and grief after hysterectomy, which is normal. Or you might have depression related to the loss of your fertility, especially if you’re young and hoped for a future pregnancy. If sadness or negative feelings interfere with your enjoyment of everyday life, talk to your doctor.