Hysterectomy Experiences: Loss of Sexuality and Emotional Emptiness

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Gynecologic surgeries, particularly hysterectomy (uterus removal), oophorectomy (ovary removal) and C-section, are the top overused procedures in the U.S. Only a small percentage of hysterectomies and oophorectomies are considered necessary since gynecologic cancers are rare. According to this JAMA Surgery article on 2007 inpatient procedures, “Two operations on the female genital system, hysterectomy and oophorectomy, accounted for a total of 930,000 procedures (89.3% and 84.6%, respectively, were elective).” These figures do not include the roughly 300,000 outpatient hysterectomies and oophorectomies done in 2007. This graph (graph B) of indications for hysterectomy is a good visual of how few are done for cancer (~50,000). However, it is misleading in that it appears that hysterectomies have steadily declined since it only includes inpatient procedures. Outpatient hysterectomies have steadily increased since about 2002 and reached 40% of these surgeries in 2012, the last year for which I could find data.  The 89.3% “elective” rate would indicate that these surgeries are “restorative” or at least harmless, but medical literature and women’s experiences prove otherwise.

A few years ago, I began writing for Hormones Matter about the consequences of hysterectomy and oophorectomy. Year after year, these posts generate tens of thousands of views and hundreds of comments. The comments inevitably follow the same pattern of unwarranted removal of organ(s) without informed consent and ensuing declining health. We are publishing a series of articles highlighting women’s comments. This is the fourth of the series. The first article is about lack of informed consent and can be found here. The second one talks about how our “exterior” settles / collapses after the uterus is removed. The third addresses organ dysfunction.

Although gynecologists typically dismiss women’s concerns about loss of sexuality after hysterectomy, women’s experiences show that it is a common after effect. Many women also report that they no longer feel connected to others and have lost interest in most activities.

The non-profit HERS Foundation did a survey of 1,000 hysterectomized women. These sexual and emotional disconnect / emptiness after effects were reported by a high percentage of women regardless of whether or not their ovaries were removed. Here is a list of those that were reported by more than half of survey respondents:

  • personality change:  79%
  • diminished or absent sexual desire: 75%
  • difficulty relating to and interacting with others: 69%
  • difficulty socializing: 68%
  • diminished or absent pleasure with intercourse: 66%
  • diminished or absent sexuality: 66%
  • diminished frequency of intercourse: 65%
  • diminished or absent sensuality: 63%
  • diminished or absent pleasure with foreplay: 62%
  • loss of affect: 61%
  • diminished or absent orgasm: 60%
  • diminished or absent vaginal lubrication: 59%
  • diminished or absent sensation in vagina: 54%

The complete list broken out by hysterectomy only, hysterectomy with one ovary removed, and hysterectomy with both ovaries removed can be found here.

Below are comments from some of my articles that are evidence of these after effects.

Chris writes:

“They dole out Viagra so men can sustain their erections but perform hysterectomies that destroy women’s sexuality so who are they using the Viagra with?”

Julia says:

“I personally feel a hell of a lot doesn’t get covered,  e.g. scarring, nerve damage,increased chance of prolapse, changes to your sexuality and ability to orgasm as previously use too,hormonal imbalances, weight gain, depression, potential for dehiscence of vaginal cuff (uncommon but does occur) and so on it goes.”

Katrina:

“I can ditto many of the comments made. I had a hysterectomy 3 years ago and it has literally ruined my life! I have no desire for sex when, before the surgery, I loved it and was very active with my husband. Now I have no desire and intercourse is extremely painful so we have virtually no sex life and it is ruining our relationship. It has also changed my appearance and not for the good…. I’m desperate.”

Erin:

“…my boyfriend of 12 years as of Sept 2016 attempted to have intercourse two separate times in which it was painful for myself which was an obvious turn off to him and unsatisfying to him because it felt like he was hitting a hard, scarred, shortened vagina which was a complete turn off for him.… miss terribly the amazing sex life we once had. We have not been intimate for 4 years now. Have no idea if he is faithful to me sexually. I am depressed and miserable knowing what our relationship once was…. thoroughly depressed and feeling anxious and alone… very little self esteem and I feel my whole body and look is different.”

Carla:

“I have the same difficulties and I have not found any solution for me but I now am becoming much better at satisfying my husband with other sexual acts, oral, and anal. While I get very little out of it, he has accepted that we cannot do the things we used to.”

Rhonda:

“I had a hysterectomy at the age of 19. They left one of the ovaries but it no longer works. I’m 46 now and struggle with having the desire to have a healthy marriage with my husband.”

Wendy:

“I had a subtotal hysterectomy thirteen years ago when I was 33. It was 6 weeks after my daughters birth…. I have the most wonderful husband and he has stuck by me. I love him so much but it has changed our relationship…. I am not really interested in intercourse and get about 10% of the feeling I used to. It takes forever to orgasm and emotionally this is hard to accept.”

Wendy:

“I realise that this experience has altered the person that I am. I get panic attacks if I feel out of control- fortunately not often but it is always there. I am also mega determined at times…. My pre baby need to go up the career ladder has gone and I would be happy I the same job to the end of my career now. In so many ways I have changed but whether this is down to my hysterectomy experiences I don’t know.”

Elizabeth:

“I now have experienced a loss in my sex drive and my orgasms are smaller and less often.”

Chris:

“I am 64 and had a full hysterectomy one year ago…. I have suffered through all the problems as everyone else listed here. My husband and I had and unbelievable sex life, I had loads of energy and strength and was able to joke about being “37”. I now feel like and old woman. I want to sleep more then move, I have little strength and our sex life is now that of senior citizens due to my loss of sensation. Before I was multi-orgasmic, now I can barely have one, my clitoris suffers from erectile dysfunction….”

SG:

“I had a hysterectomy 4 years ago.. as part of prolapse surgery..,the gyno desided it was necessary…. My waxing sex drive plummeted and no more big Os for me..now it is a ripple compared to a tsunami. I am now on estrogen patches which do not seem to increase anything.”

Jacqueline:

“I had the same disgusting lied to procedure done to me two years ago. Since then my life has been hell. A living hell. Why do doctors castrate woman? Why? It makes no sense at all. Why do they cut out our sex organs? Why? Why do they disable us?”

Ashley:

“I had a full hysterectomy almost exactly a year ago…. I am struggling a lot with the changes in my body. I never get wet enough or stay wet. The tissue on my vulva is very thin and almost always tears with sex. I can still have an orgasm but it takes much longer. My vaginal ones aren’t as strong and it is almost impossible to have a clitoral orgasm now. My clitoris is tiny. I mean really tiny. I don’t really even think about sex anymore. There is rarely desire or arousal at things that once made me go nuts. I feel broken.”

GPLD:

“After surgery I feel exactly what you described about sex.”

Nora:

“I had a TAH in December. The surgery shortened my vaginal canal by 3 inches. After 27 years of marriage I am unable to have sex. I feel castrated. Can this be reversed? Why are doctors doing this to women? I do not have cancer…. I never knew this could happen. I’ve been using dilators but it’s not helping. I’m feeling hopeless.”

Pat:

“I had total hysterectomy 7 years ago due to fibroids . I still regret having it. I have no libido and sex enjoyment and orgasm is like 30 percent compared to the 100 percent pre TAH. I feel duped because the doctors never mentioned the sex disadvantage…. I wish someone had told me.”

Yolanda:

“I have loss some of my sex drive, but i can still have an orgasm. I have also lost some sensation in my nipples, but not completely.”

Helen:

“Had robotic, total hysterectomy in December. Immediate menopause. No fun. Shortened vagina. No fun. Physical changes to body. No fun.”

BeBe:

“My hysterectomy was necessary due to Essure permanent birth control. One migrated to my uterus and I was sick from that poison in my body that the FDA approved. I’m 11 months post op. Tummy still tender. Hurt the day after sex in the cuff area. And miss the good orgasms. I’m furious at all of this. I’m fatigued. Have migraines and have become very anti-social.”

Sandra:

“Three years ago I had a hysterectomy. They removed one of my ovaries tube and uterus. Since my surgery I have had nothing but negative effects on my life. I no longer want to have sex with my husband. Before I had a great sex life!!”

NJ:

“I am two years post total…. I am heart broken and wish I could turn back the clock… I miss my sexuality so much and I am battling with the sense of disconnect that some have described. I am able to achieve a faint orgasm with a vibrator but it comes and goes so quickly and if I try to lengthen the plateau period then I get a strange painful ache in my somewhat diminished clitoris. I have, I think, scar tissue inside the entrance to my vagina which makes penetration painful to the point that I am apprehensive at the mere prospect of sex.”

S Mc:

“Cant believe what I have read – I match your situation entirely. I feel so let down by my consultant, these changes to my sexuality were never suggested to me. My story is worsened by the fact that I am trying to heal my marriage of 20 years after discovering my husbands long term affair. I feel numb, panic stricken and so very sad.”

Julia:

“I’m now 4 and a half months post hysterectomy and vaginal repairs…. Worst decision ever! A battle with vaginal dryness, burning and ph that constantly changes. Trying to find a lubricant that doesn’t irritate my now fragile tissues is a nightmare. Oestrogen cream currently burns like hell so I can’t use that atm. Oral Oestrogen help but then cause outbreaks of thrush…. My sex life has tanked, sore and lack of sex drive. Today I spent 20 minutes icing my vulva, such is the irritation but at least the swelling has gone down. I use to be an active, strong and sexually fulfilled woman and now I feel opposite.”

Julia:

“Even now it shocks me when a Doctor says you don’t need your uterus or cervix for orgasm. That’s total bs, because I have ‘shallow’ orgasms in the few times I’ve managed sex since ‘that’operation. I desperately miss the old me.”

Karen:

“My heart has literally been breaking as I’ve read these posts and understand how many other women feel the way I do. I had a total hysterectomy five years ago…. He did everything to scare me into having the operation and quickly…. now when things should be perfect I feel like my very soul has been removed. I was such a sexual creature before they took away all my sexual organs and now my very lifeblood has been taken away. As many have already mentioned on this site, the sexual energy, which was a huge part of my being, simply doesn’t exist anymore and when I do feel sexually excited, not only is it a different feeling to before but it’s almost impossible to have an orgasm and it’s not worth the effort to reach a climax as the orgasms are just so insignificant when they do happen. I used to experience the most intense orgasms and even at age fifty one, when I had my operation, I still had the most amazing pleasure from sex so I feel so desolate at the loss of those intense, fulfilling emotions and feelings.”

Linda:

“I had a complete hysterectomy in 1998. Since then, I too have lost something that was VERY important to me as a woman. You described what I’ve gone through..to a T. When I spoke to my doctor who performed my surgery, she had no idea what I was talking about. It is like a death, and I too struggle. I feel robbed, cheated and incomplete as a woman.”

12032003:

“My heart can’t express how I feel reading this article. If I only knew what I know now. They got me, I was only 27 when I got a full hysterectomy…..crying. It was tumor and myth doctor told me the same thing,”

Lisa:

“Eventually, all of these surgeries resulted in a complete hysterectomy about 6 years ago. I have been married to my husband for a year now. Thankfully we were friends for years before we married but I still feel sorry him. He has a healthy sex drive and is very loving toward me. I have absolutely no sex drive and I am completely turned off by the thought of sex, I am attracted to my husband and he takes it so personally when I turn him down, I guess I need to get better at pretending.”

Micah:

“I am 25 I had to have a hysterectomy at 24 after I had my son on June 16,2014.. My husband,is younger then me He is 20 and of course my sex drive no longer exists at all!! We have had sex 2 times this month it is about to cause US to divorce!”

Eme:

“I had a partial hysterectomy its been 1 yr and 3 months I’ve had nothing but pain since then. I’ve noticed if I have an intense orgasm I’m in pain after for hours.”

Denett:

“Hi I am 35 and went a full hysterectomy in Jan.2015. At first it did not seen to be a problem with mys ex life but now it has been 4 months since i have been able to climax. I am a sexual person and love having sex with my husband but don’t know how to explain to him that sex is just not working 4 me anymore. I am still young and I am really sadden and hurt because of it….”

Linda:

“I too had a hysterectomy that could have been avoided. It completed destroyed a very active and important sex life. I have tried all sorts of measures (including hormones) to improve function and though some helped to a small extent, nothing has ever been the same. 7 years later, I am saddened and feel destroyed. I try so hard to maintain some level of intimacy, but there just isn’t enough feeling to make it worth it. I miss my old life, and the closeness I once had. I just feel so hurt that one of the most important aspects of my life was robbed from me by a greedy doctor who just wanted to make money. I would do anything to have my function restored.”

Tanara:

“I had an hysterectomy 04-22-2015, the reason was I was suffering from a prolapse uterus, it actually fell out my vagina so the doctor tells me I need a hysterectomy and now I’m so emotionally cause it was like taking my womanhood away.”

Leigh:

“Sex yup still painful even more so than before days after I hurt.”

Erica:

“I’m 44…. I’m experiencing severe… have no sex drive… I’m an emotional basket case…. I’m so depressed and feel like I’m 80 years old. I’ve been reading all of these comments and it brings tears to my eyes.. I know I’m not alone.”

Michelle:

“when I think back to before my hysterectomy I was a happy bubbly person with a good job, husband etc I changed becoming old tired in constant pain not interested in sex the depression etc the list just goes on and on. I have never been right since…. I have just started in a new relationship and a sex life which is very difficult as I have zero sex drive also worry due to the rectal prolapse, during sex I am experiencing sharp pain that radiates into my hip leg etc and it is now constant I have been on morphine for pain for many years it helps me cope but it is not helping this pain.”

Suz:

“Sex is not the same libido is gone and nipples no longer harden.”

Ginger:

“sex too painful, this surgery ruined my life”

Kat:

“This surgery did great damage to my body and affected changes in my hormone levels, libido, etc. but nothing as drastic as when I had the oopherectomy to remove the second ovary. Since that time, libido has been all but nil…. even with uterus-only removal, you will most likely be left with the issue of no longer having the capacity for uterine orgasms (if you did before), only clitoral. While you can learn to ‘enjoy’ these orgasms, they are much more shallow and sometimes even frustrating.”

Jay:

“If only I could turn back time, I would vastly change my decisions…. I certainly miss my uterus and cervix sexually, with orgasms being a shallow version of what they use to be.”

Karen:

“I had a hysterectomy almost 3 months ago. I hate what has happened to my body. My vagina is not even similar to what I remember. My breasts are so painful I don’t know how to aleviate it. Sex…misery. I feel so alone…. I feel a needling pain in my lower abdomen/vagina.”

Lisa:

“I am reading this in absolute disbelief. I feel heartbroken and sick for any woman that has been falsely led by their doctor and has had their womanhood remove. Those organs make us a woman, they are so much more than just organs, they effect every fiber of our being. I’m so sorry, I really can’t even express myself in words.”

SharonJ:

“The thing is, 4 years post-op and my story is darn near identical to the ones I found here. The endometriosis I had my whole life (I’m now 46) was a cake walk compared to the hell I’m in now!… I have to put Lidocaine inside my vjay 15 mins before sex & then lube just to make love with my husband of 26 years!”

ATH:

“The thought of having sex makes me cringe because I know the kind of pain that will follow. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING??”

Rebecca:

“Was advised only option was a total hysterectomy had it on 6th Febuary 2014 recovery ok. Sex life non existent major loss of feeling, weak pelvic floor – leaking pee when exercise, sneeze, rarely laugh. Feel the lowest I have EVER felt in my life….”

Lisa:

“8 months after Hysterectomy, I am miserable…. The Posterier repair is a nightmare. I am too small for my husband and along with the lack of sensation, its not fun at all.. Even after 6 vaginal births, I always enjoyed sex. Though it feels great to my husband, and he is sensitive about my feelings, I have now developed an anxiety about sex.”

Sheli:

“Im 11 weeks post op of my hysterectomy. My doctor… said id have a brand new vagina and be cancer free and id feel like a brand new person. Omg! Exactly the opposite has happened…. at this point, i wish i wouldve never had the surgery even if it meant keeping the cancer. Im a 34 year old…  feels like im 90.

3/4 of my vagina has no feeling…. I have to I guess spend the next 20 years trying to figure this thing out. My sex life, relationship with my husband has all been affected by this horrible surgery…. I feel like my life is over. I’m changing and developing new symptoms all the time. My husband is saying I’ve changed since my surgery…. I fear i may lose my husband and with losing myself like i have due to this whole experience of the surgery, its just too much to bear. I feel like nothing and a no body. I don’t feel like a woman anymore. I feel like I’m a disappointment to everyone and don’t know how I’m going to live the rest of my life like this.”

Jake writes:

“My wife and I had a very good sexual component to our relationship and post surgery it is simply not the same – not at all. It is always funny to me how “doctors” tell you everything was/is fine post hysterectomy. I can absolutely tell you that it significantly and permanently damages/destroys the sexual component of a healthy relationship – PERIOD. Don’t bore me with the “well there must be something else wrong… blah blah. My wife and I had a very good sexual component to our relationship and post surgery it is simply not the same – not at all. Think long and hard and then think again before you allow any “doctor” to permanently mutilate your body.”

PS says:

“My wife had a hysterectomy about 18 months ago. We have been married for 24 years and have always had a passionate sex life. Two weeks ago, she informed me that she no longer has romantic feelings for me and has asked that I not make sexual overtures to her of any kind. This hit me like a ton of bricks. I have read this article and feel very strongly that the effects experienced by WS describe what has happened to my beautiful wife. Needless to say, I am devastated. As a 49 year old man, I’ve realized that sex is actually more than sex, it is an intimate connection that forms a bond. That bond is now missing and I’m reeling… I feel an absence of affection not only for myself, but for my children. My two daughters have reached out to me repeatedly saying that they feel a loss of connection with Mom. I’ve had a few weeks to process this, and as time has passed, and as I have thought more and more about what WS has written, I have begun to grieve not only for myself but for my wife. I feel very strongly that a part of her is now missing.”

Joshua:

“I’m unsure how to ask for help but my fiance had a cervical hysterectomy back in January of this year and she seems to be having issues with mood swings sex drive depression and fatigue. I want to help her and be there for her but no matter what I do or say doesn’t seem right. How can I help her? This is cause a very big strain on our relationship. Plz help me help her.”

I caution any woman who is told she needs a hysterectomy and/or oophorectomy or is considering one to heed these comments. With the gross overuse of these surgeries, chances are she’s being sold a false bill of goods. It’s not always a good idea to rely solely on your doctor’s advice as Someone Who Cares cautions:

“After 40 years of enduring this “disabled” existence, it breaks my heart that no matter how many of us try to warn other women, in various ways, the number of these destructive surgeries continues to increase, not decrease.”

A complete list of my articles can be found here. The HERS Foundation is a good resource for understanding the lifelong functions of the female organs. It also has information about gynecologic conditions and treatment options. These two sites, Gyn Reform (especially the studies/citations link) and Ovaries for Life, are excellent resources about the gross overuse and harm of ovary removal or loss of ovarian function after hysterectomy.

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