Having a hysterectomy doesn’t mean the end of having sex. Find out how a hysterectomy might affect your sex life, how long you should wait before having sex again, and how to cope with issues such as vaginal dryness.
When you have a hysterectomy, you’ll be advised not to have sex for around four to six weeks. If you don’t feel ready after six weeks, don’t worry – different women feel ready at different times. It takes time to recover from any surgery, but having a hysterectomy can have a strong emotional impact too, which can affect how you feel about sex.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a study of 413 women in the Netherlands found that sexual wellbeing improved after hysterectomy, and that there was some reduction in sexual problems (such as pain) after the surgery. However, around 1 in 5 women developed new sexual problems after hysterectomy. If you experience problems with sex after your operation, don’t suffer in silence. There is help – you can talk to your GP, a counsellor or an organisation such as the Hysterectomy Association.
Feeling sexually attractive
A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus (womb), and sometimes the ovaries, fallopian tubes or cervix as well. Which organs are removed will depend on your own circumstances, and why you’re having the hysterectomy. You can find out about the different types of hysterectomy.
Losing the uterus can make many women worry about feeling less womanly after their operation, or losing their sexual attractiveness. Many women also talk about feelings of loss or sadness after a hysterectomy. These feelings should pass. You may find it helps to focus on your recovery – eating healthily, getting some exercise (your doctor will tell you how much activity you should aim for) and talking to your partner or friends about how you’re feeling.
If you’re finding it hard to cope with these emotions, talk to your consultant or your GP. You may be able to have counselling to help you work through your feelings. You can find a counsellor near you.
It can also help to read about how other women have got through similar experiences. You can read about women’s experiences of hysterectomy at health talk online.
Sex and menopause
Having your ovaries removed will trigger the menopause, whatever your age. The changing hormone levels during menopause can affect your sex life. Find out more about sex after menopause, and how to deal with any problems.
Some women have less interest in sex after having a hysterectomy. If this happens to you, your interest in sex may return in time as your recovery progresses. If you and your partner feel it’s a problem, try to talk about it together so that it doesn’t become an unspoken issue between you. You can also talk to your GP, or find a counsellor who can offer help with sexual problems. You can find out some tips from a psychosexual therapist on talking about sex.
Lack of sex drive can be made worse by depression, menopausal symptoms, relationship problems and stress. These problems are often temporary, but if symptoms of menopause or depression persist then see a doctor for treatment. Treating menopausal symptoms may boost your sex drive indirectly by improving your general wellbeing and energy levels.
Sensation and orgasm
Having a hysterectomy doesn’t mean you can’t have an orgasm. You still have your clitoris and labia, which are highly sensitive. It’s not known what role the cervix may play in orgasm – some experts have argued that removing the cervix can have an adverse affect, but others have found that it doesn’t.
In a study comparing different surgical methods of hysterectomy, a number of women noticed reduced sexual sensation. This included reduced feeling when their partner penetrated their vagina, a dry vagina and less intense orgasms. If, before hysterectomy, you had noticeable uterine contractions during orgasm you may miss these afterwards.
If you find that your hysterectomy has made your vagina feel more dry than it used to, try using a sexual lubricant. You can buy these over the counter at a pharmacy.
Your surgeon will have advised you to do pelvic floor exercises to help your recovery. These exercises can also tone up the muscles of your vagina and help improve sexual sensation. You can find out more about pelvic floor exercises.
Other women in the surgical study pointed out that their hysterectomy had removed their pre-surgery symptoms (for example, heaving bleeding or pain), and they had a greater sense of wellbeing and happiness.