I had a total abdominal hysterectomy nearly two weeks ago. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure removing all or parts of the uterus. A few weeks before, I was advised by two separate gynecologists to have the procedure.
Each year approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the United States. It’s the second most common procedure (after cesarean section) in U.S women of reproductive age. Studies show that black women have higher rates of hysterectomy than any other racial group.
At first, I was surprised, but not surprised by the diagnosis
You know how it is when you have that “thing” that you need to take care of and you don’t? Women have hysterectomies performed for many reasons. I had enlarged fibroids. Fibroids are the most common tumors of the female reproductive system. The Mayo Clinic reports that black women are more likely to have fibroids than women of other racial groups. In addition, black women have fibroids at younger ages, and they’re also likely to have more or larger fibroids.
Fibroid tumors come in all shapes and sizes
Tumors are most commonly detected by your gynecologist (GYN) during a routine examination. Your GYN may order imaging tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds, or an MRI to diagnose the tumor. UCLA Health reports that in 99% of fibroid cases the tumors are benign (non-cancerous).
Symptoms may include heavy and prolonged menstrual cycles, cramping, bladder pressure, difficulty urinating, backache, leg pain, anemia, and fatigue. I was experiencing all of these symptoms.
But when the doctor said we needed to remove my uterus
I wasn’t ready for that. I needed to process it, so I took my time with it. As I began to share the news with people in my life (plus that random stranger during happy hour), some interesting questions came up. I welcomed them all.
Writing this now, I know for sure that being open and allowing people in has helped me tremendously in recovering well. Some questions really threw me, though.
I am no lesser a woman after the hysterectomy
I found myself explaining to people that this wasn’t going to affect my womanhood. A male friend asked me if I would be less feminine after. For me, the answer was and is no and I told him so. I never questioned that. I wondered about sex.
Let’s talk about sex
At 42, I desire the experience of loving, intimate, straight up mind-blowing sex well into my 70s. To increase my chances of forever sex, I would need to save at least one of my two ovaries. Women friends told me to fight for my ovaries.
I called Dr. Kameelah Phillips on a Sunday afternoon for advice. She’s an OB/GYN practicing in New York City and founder of OBabyMaternity.com. I was more confident and prepared after we spoke. We’re sharing more in upcoming articles, follow them HERE. For now, here’s some of what Dr. Phillips shared with me when I asked her what to expect as it relates to intimacy (sex) after a hysterectomy.
“The impact of a hysterectomy on your level of intimacy is dependent on a few factors, primarily how the hysterectomy was performed and if the ovaries were removed.
If the ovaries are removed your libido, lubrication, and comfort may be compromised. If a woman is not already in menopause, removal of the ovaries will induce a surgical menopause.
The sudden loss of estrogen can lead to hot flashes, mood changes, change in libido, and possible vaginal dryness. All of these symptoms can negatively impact intimacy. If the patient is a candidate, hormone replacement therapy, vaginal lubrication, or vaginal estrogen can help minimize some of these issues.”
My GYN saved one of my ovaries, now I feel like there is hope for forever sex.
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Elisha Lowe is a registered nurse, business strategist, writer, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker with two decades of experience in healthcare. She works with top healthcare organizations to grow novel products that support improved patient outcomes. You can follow her on Twitter @ElishaLoweRN or learn more at www.elishalowe.com.