As many as 20% of women undergo a hysterectomy during their lives. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure in which part or all of a woman's uterus and sometimes the surrounding reproductive organs are removed, and this may happen as a result of medical necessity or through choice. Though common, a hysterectomy is a major operation with a recovery period of around six weeks. It has a number of effects on the body, the most significant of these being the end of reproductive life and possibly surgically-induced menopause. This can bring with it troubling symptoms, such as vaginal dryness.
What Is Vaginal Dryness?
Vaginal dryness occurs when the vaginal tissues do not secrete sufficient moisture to lubricate the vagina, resulting in a feeling of dryness. This can make the vagina feel itchy and uncomfortable, and causes friction and pain during sexual intercourse. This can lead to a loss of libido and resultant problems between a woman and her partner, as well as issues with self-confidence and femininity. In the aftermath of major surgery, these may be especially difficult to handle.
Hysterectomy and Vaginal Dryness
A hysterectomy can be undertaken for several reasons, the most common being pelvic pain, menorrhagia (i.e., heavy periods), and tumors. Hysterectomies are the second-most frequently done surgery to women who are of childbearing age. However, many doctors and health organizations state that potentially too many women receive hysterectomies, and that the risks and benefits are not always properly weighed.
The removal of the uterus during a hysterectomy immediately induces menopause, known as surgical menopause, regardless of the woman's age. After the operation, the woman will no longer be able to reproduce and may experience other symptoms commonly associated with menopause, including vaginal dryness. Low estrogen levels are one of the main causes of vaginal dryness after this operation.
Dealing with Vaginal Dryness After a Hysterectomy
It is possible to combat vaginal dryness post-hysterectomy. Some methods that can help include:
Talk to other women who have undergone a hysterectomy. Online support groups, close friends and family members, or a therapist or counselor can help you confront and deal with emotions you may have post-hysterectomy.
Use a natural vaginal moisturizer on a regular basis or a vaginal water-based lubricant before sex, which can instantly relieve dryness.
Follow a healthy diet, exercise, and consider taking herbal supplements to help balance your estrogen levels.
Make time for sex, which is a natural solution to dryness and important for a woman's emotional well-being. When a woman is aroused, blood circulation to her genitals increases, stimulating the secretion of moisture in the vaginal tissues and helping to eliminate vaginal dryness.
After a hysterectomy, your body is recovering from a major operation, so try not to be hard on yourself if you're experiencing vaginal dryness and other symptoms. Look for natural solutions to counter dryness as you nurture your body back to health.
- National Health Service UK. (2012). Hysterectomy. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hysterectomy/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- National Health Service UK. (2011). Sex after hysterectomy. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodsex/Pages/sex-after-hysterectomy.aspx
- National Institutes of Health. (2013). Hysterectomy. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002915.htm
- New York State Department of Health. (2010). Hysterectomy. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from https://www.health.ny.gov/community/adults/women/hysterectomy/
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (1999). Sexual Relations Improve after a Hysterectomy. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from http://umm.edu/news-and-events/news-releases/1999/sexual-relations-improve-after-hysterectomy