Review on January 29, 2008
Over half a million American women get a hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus) each year. Because the procedure often results in lowered levels of estrogen and other physiological changes, many women experience symptoms such as painful sexual intercourse (or, in medical terminology, dyspareunia) and vaginal dryness.
However, a new article authored by Julia Rhodes et al. reveals some differing information, suggesting that in some women hysterectomy can actually ameliorate overall sexual health and well-being and improve vaginal dryness and associated discomfort.
The authors held a two-year investigation as part of the Maryland Women's Health Study, interviewing 1101 women before hysterectomy and at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months after, nothing frequency of intercourse, dyspareunia, orgasm, vaginal dryness, and sexual desire.
Most subjects reported improvements in each category. Interestingly, although women who did not previously experience vaginal dryness did report this problem after hysterectomy, patients suffering from vaginal dryness before the operation observed relief afterwards. One report found that about a little less than half of women (44%) experienced worsened vaginal dryness after the procedure, while the majority (56%) observed a similar or increased amount of vaginal lubrication.
The women in the study noted other improvements as well, including more frequent sexual intercourse, less sdiscomfort during sex, and more frequent orgasms. The mechanisms behind this amelioration in sexual function are unclear, but the relief from gynecological problems after hysterectomy most probably helped by improving overall health and quality of life. The cessation of menstruation and freedom from pregnancy may also contribute to sexual well-being.
It must be emphasized that only women who had suffered from serious gynecological problems will benefit from hysterectomy and find relief from vaginal dryness. Women with a health uterus will not experience the same beneficial side effects from hysterectomy, and the procedure should never be considered as an anecdote to vaginal dryness alone.
- Rhodes, Julia C., et al. "Hysterectomy and Sexual Functioning." JAMA 282 (1999): 1934-1941.