Does having a hysterectomy affect sex?
Although everyone heals differently, a person may experience some common side effects after surgery that may initially affect sex.
However, given time to heal, and many women find their enjoyment of sexual activity remains the same after a hysterectomy, while others say it improves. Read on to find out what to expect.
How long should you wait?
Although everyone heals at a different rate, it is recommend that people wait at least 6 - 8 weeks before having sex after a hysterectomy.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), after a hysterectomy, a woman should refrain from putting anything in the vagina for about 6 weeks. This includes a penis, fingers, sex toys, tampons, and douches.
It is important to understand that this recommendation is based on the average time it takes to heal, which is about 6 to 8 weeks. However, everyone heals at a different rate.
Doctors recommend that women refrain from sexual activity after a hysterectomy until all surgery-related vaginal discharge has stopped and any wounds have healed.
There are no official guidelines on when it is safe to have an orgasm, for example, from manual masturbation with the fingers. But, it is vital to give the body time to heal, and an orgasm tenses the muscles in the pelvic region, potentially straining any healing wounds.
There are no expectations about when a woman should feel like having sex after a hysterectomy.
Some women may experience vaginal bleeding and pain for several weeks after surgery, and they may have little interest in sex.
In addition to physical effects, a hysterectomy can have a significant emotional impact and affect how a woman feels about having sex.
A woman's feelings about sex after a hysterectomy may vary depending on the reasons for surgery, her personal situation, and whether surgery has induced menopause.
What to expect
Although a hysterectomy may cause certain changes in the pelvic areas, it usually does not affect the ability to enjoy sex. In most cases, a woman can resume a healthy, fulfilling sex life after she heals.
Typically, removing the uterus and cervix does not affect the sensation in the vagina or a woman's ability to have an orgasm. The vagina may be slightly shorter than before the surgery, but this should not cause problems with sexual activity.
As long as a woman has had sufficient time to heal, bleeding or pain should not occur. If bleeding or pain does occur during sex, a woman should talk with her doctor.
According to a review of several studies, having a hysterectomy does not usually negatively affect sexuality.
Most women report either improved or unchanged sexual function after having a hysterectomy. When sexual dysfunction does occur, it appeared to be due to aging or the hormonal changes caused by removing the ovaries.
A hysterectomy may relieve a variety of symptoms that made sex uncomfortable before surgery, such as pain or heavy bleeding. Relief from these symptoms may make sex after a hysterectomy more enjoyable than before surgery.
A loss of sex drive may occur after a hysterectomy.
Although many women do not experience sexual problems after a hysterectomy, some do experience complications.
These may include:
- Loss of sex drive: A woman may experience a reduced libido if her ovaries are removed, as this will cause a lack of estrogen.
- Pelvic floor weakness: Doing pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, can strengthen the muscles after surgery, improving sex and reducing the risk of incontinence.
- Vaginal dryness: Some women experience vaginal dryness after having a hysterectomy. This can often be managed with an over-the-counter lubricant or natural alternative, such as coconut oil.
- Change in sexual sensation: Some women report a reduction in sensation inside their vagina during sex. This does not have to negatively affect a woman's ability to orgasm, as the clitoris and labia are still highly sensitive. However, it may mean changing positions and techniques to find what feels right after surgery.
Sex and menopause
Having the ovaries removed during a hysterectomy will trigger menopause, regardless of a woman's age.
Although not all women experience sexual problems after menopause, it can have some effect on a woman's sex life.
Estrogen levels decrease because of menopause, which can lead to thinning of the vaginal tissues. Thinning tissues may make some sexual activity painful.
Vaginal dryness can also develop in the menopause and make sexual activity uncomfortable. Sometimes, a woman's sex drive may lower, due to a change in hormone levels.
Some women choose to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help manage issues, including vaginal dryness and a decreased libido.
There are also several over-the-counter products to treat vaginal dryness.
Tips for sex after a hysterectomy
Not rushing things and talking with a partner are recommended.
It is normal to be a little apprehensive about having sex after a hysterectomy. There are several things a person can do to make it easier, including:
- Not rushing things: Having sex too soon after surgery can be painful and may cause an infection. A person should follow the doctor's recommendations about when it is safe to have sex, remembering that 6 weeks is only a guide. Some women may not be ready at that point in their recovery.
- Using lubrication: Using lubrication may make sex easier and more enjoyable. Lubrication is especially helpful for women who have had their ovaries removed and are in surgical menopause.
- Talking with their partner: It is essential for a person to talk with any sexual partners about how they feel after a hysterectomy, especially if something is painful or uncomfortable.
- Trying different positions: Certain positions may be more comfortable than others, especially for people who are experiencing vaginal dryness. In these cases, they can experiment with different positions to find something that feels better.
It is common to wonder what effect, if any, a hysterectomy will have on a person's sex life. In most cases, having a hysterectomy will not negatively impact sex in the long term.
Everyone heals differently and at a different pace. A woman should listen to her body and wait until she has recovered, both emotionally and physically, before engaging in sexual activity.
Women who experience sexual problems after a hysterectomy, such as pain or a reduced sex drive, should talk to their doctor about possible solutions.
The good news is a woman's sex life can be just as good or better after having a hysterectomy.