Hysterectomy is Not Always the Best Choice
Even if you do not wish to have any (more) children, moving forward with a hysterectomy may not be the best choice for treatment of heavy bleeding and/or uterine pain. Although initial complications following the procedure tend to be rare, they can be serious and include heavy blood loss, blood clots in the lungs, injury to the bladder and/or bowel and/or systemic bacterial infections. Ongoing complications such as the following are likely to be of greater concern for most women:
- Weakened pelvic muscles that can lead to challenges during urination and loss of muscle tone in the vagina and/or rectum. Some women require a second surgical procedure to correct these issue.
- Vaginal bleeding that typically lasts four to six weeks after the procedure but can continue for a longer period of time.
- Early onset of menopause, even if the ovaries are left intact. Early menopause puts women at a greater risk of certain diseases, such as osteoporosis.
- Scar tissue, known as adhesions, which may form in the pelvic area.
Alternatives to a Hysterectomy That Preserve Fertility
Numerous alternatives to a hysterectomy exist and are usually highly successful at treating painful uterine cramps and/or heavy bleeding. Women who would like to preserve their fertility should consider the following options:
- Birth control pills – Often the first medication of choice to treat uncomfortable periods, birth control pills have been found to reduce cramping and the volume of menstrual flow in 80 percent of all women who use them. Birth control pills, like all hormonal methods of contraception, do have side effects, so discuss concerns with your doctor.
- An intrauterine device (IUD) with progesterone – Hormonal IUD’s have been shown to significantly reduce bleeding and cramping and can be left in place for three to five years. Many women cease menstruating completely after the device has been in place for a few months.
- The MyoSure procedure – Fibroids, polyps or other abnormal formations within the uterus may be responsible for your cramping and/or heavy monthly bleeding. If this is the case, the MyoSure procedure offers an alternative to hysterectomy that leaves your uterus and fertility fully intact. Under anesthesia, fibroids or polyps are removed from your uterus through a small wand inserted through your vagina. The procedure has a very high success rate and few complications.
Some Options Result in Sterility
Women who no longer wish to have children have additional alternatives to a hysterectomy beyond those listed above:
- Endometrial ablation – By destroying (ablating) the lining of the uterus (the endometrium), bleeding and cramping is significantly reduced in the majority of women; half will cease having periods altogether. The procedure may be completed with the use of heat, cold, electricity, microwave radiation or a laser beam and recovery is generally rapid.
- The NovaSure procedure – A simplified version of endometrial ablation, this method utilizes radiofrequency impedance-based technology to destroy the uterine lining in only 90 seconds with no pain in more than 97 percent of all patients.
Seek a Second Opinion Before Scheduling Surgery
Heavy bleeding and/or severe uterine cramping is not something you simply have to learn to live with until reaching menopause. Although hysterectomy is often recommended to treat these symptoms, numerous alternatives which are simpler and highly effective are available. Talk to your doctor, and be sure to get a second opinion before scheduling a hysterectomy surgery. Remember, a knowledgeable OB/GYN will be most familiar with the needs specific to women with painful menstruation issues.