Melissa’s Vaginal Hysterectomy
Age at Surgery 41
I underwent a hysterectomy after suffering for many years with extremely heavy periods. As a teen I remember my periods being heavier than most girls my age and in college I started on a mini birth control pill before having my first child. The pill made my periods more manageable so after having my daughter I tried BC pills again but my body reacted differently, I had migraine headaches and felt sluggish. I decided to go off the pills and dealt with my heavier periods each month up to having my second child. After having my son at age 29, my periods were so heavy at times that I was wearing super tampons with pads to prevent leakage. I had ultrasounds done and my lining appeared thicker at times and I had a small intrauterine fibroid but not out of the normal range they said. I was prescribed BC pills again to take for 3 months on and no break but again I felt nauseous, miserable and depressed on them. I stopped the pills and at age 40 I decided I needed to try something new as I was tired of feeling nervous to go to work or in public on my heavy flow days, getting up at night and having to wash the bedding and change my clothes because I had bled through all my layers. In June at age 40 my Dr implanted the Morena IUD as the least invasive treatment for heavy bleeding before considering ablation or surgery. Following the IUD insertion I bled every day for the next 30 days. Sometimes just spotting and sometimes heavier like a period. I read this was normal so I stuck it out with intermittent spotting and period like bleeding every 2 weeks…never heavy like my original periods but I also was bleeding every day so I assumed that may have been why. Months 3-4 I thought things were looking up, period once during the month but it lasted 10 days each time and was probably average flow. Month 5 and 6 was heavier once again and I was going to consult my Dr when on Jan 3rd my flow was so heavy and such large clots that the IUD was expelled in the clot that night and the bleeding was unbelievable. I was changing my ultra-tampon every hour and was leaking through. That night I went to bed and laying down slowed the flow but the next morning it was back, every hour changing so I called the Dr and ended up in the ER. I was bleeding so fast they were contemplating either emergency surgery or blood transfusions. My Dr however prescribed two medications to clot and slow the bleeding which I later learned should never be taken together since they both have a high risk of DVT. After 2 doses the bleeding stopped and I saw my Dr the next day. We talked about options and agreed that a vaginal hysterectomy was the next logical step at my age, with the small fibroid, and with my history. For the next month I continued taking medication and bled for the next 28 days ranging from spotting to extremely heavy again with it stopping ironically the day of my actual surgery.
On February 5th 2020 I went to the hospital at 5:30am to undergo an outpatient vaginal hysterectomy. I went into my pre-op waiting area where I was given many pills to swallow for infection, urine dye, etc and a patch for nausea due to past anesthesia experiences. I was wheeled back and placed on a table where they inject anesthesia and the next part I remember was waking up in the recovery room with my family at my side. I felt dizzy so they quickly removed my nausea patch and that helped. I had an ice pack on my vaginal area and was given Sprite and crackers to eat as I came to. The Dr came in and said everything went great. She removed my uterus and tubes leaving both ovaries as they appeared normal and based on my age we hoped to leave them for natural menopause later in life. My uterus she said looked unremarkable but was sent off to pathology to check for any areas of concern. I was dressed and sent home with ibuprofen, tylenol, and oxycodone by 11am. The ride home was long and painful, I felt every bump but then realized my meds had worn off since I was to take them in alternate every 2 hours and it had been 3 by the time I got to the car and home. I took my meds and went straight to bed. I remember getting up to use the bathroom the first time and feeling scared to sit or push and it took longer for my bladder to release than normal. I also knew as soon as my meds were starting to wear off and my husband would bring them to me every 2 hours to stay ahead of the pain. I felt best with a pillow under my stomach if I rolled to my side which was better than laying flat on my back as my shoulders were tight. The gas pains as my bowels started back and fear of bowel movements made gas ex and stool softeners a must. I found even a partially full bladder or gas to cause major discomfort. The first couple days I had light bloody/watery discharge that slowly changed to a light yellowish brown over the next few days up to day 10. I saw my Dr a week after surgery and up to that point I tried to walk laps in my living room every day and continued to use the ice pack on my abdomen while resting. I only took ibuprofen and tylenol throughout my recovery and was taking only ibuprofen once or twice a day by day 4. My Dr checked me over and even did an internal exam since I was having discharge but all was fine. I freaked out at the thought of her touching me down there but it wasn’t painful at all. She cleared me to do stairs and walk on a treadmill at a slow pace for the next 5 weeks until I saw her again so I started off slow, 2mph and 15 minutes at a time with eventually getting to 3 miles at a 3mph pace by 6 weeks. I noticed if I did too much my abdomen felt heavy and I would need to rest with my feet up and my I’ve pack again. At 6 weeks I was cleared for work and my exam at 8 weeks showed my cuff was fully healed and no stitches or granulation. I was given the go ahead for intercourse and to resume all activities as I felt able.
My greatest difficulty as I recovered was listening to my body and slowing down and resting as needed. If I overdid it, my body would respond with achiness and swelling in my abdomen. Overall my recovery was easy and without incident but it definitely took time and even at 5 -6 months out I would notice abdominal heaviness or swelling after intense activity. My biggest worries after hysterectomy were a normal sex life with my husband, the ability to continue normal activities and weight gain. My Dr released me to normal activities at 8 weeks but I took my time and even held off on sexual intercourse until 10 weeks due to anxiety. I made sure to have a natural lubricant the first few times and to go very slow…it was not painful but not pleasurable either due to my nerves. After several successful times without bleeding or pain, I finally found I could enjoy sex again and we no longer need lubricants either. As far as activity level goes, I am now even more active since my periods would keep me down for at least a week each month and the excessive bleeding made me anemic and tired. I started back to running at 4 months post op and by summer I was up to a 10k distance with careful training. I continue to run and do body strength training exercises every day. I do not life heavy for fear of prolapse but find body weight conditioning to be enough for me. My weight has actually gone down which I attribute to more regular hormone levels and ability to exercise every day.
I waited to write about my hysterectomy journey for a full year because I wanted to share a complete story and any challenges along the way. After a full year I can honestly say that my hysterectomy was the best choice for me. The recovery was manageable and I have no complications from my surgery. My uterus was actually completely healthy and my Dr said we will never know why I had the extreme bleeding and large clots I was struggling with but I have no regrets from my choice. I am glad I chose to have it done while I was young and healthy and while I could still have it done vaginally. My dear if i had waited it out would be that I end up with an emergency procedure and complications from a different surgery that I didn’t have time to plan for or choose. Overall I feel much healthier and happier.
My advice to women faced with the decision of a hysterectomy is to weigh the pros and cons for you personally. For me I was at a time in my life where I was done having children and the symptoms I was experiencing were impacting my every day life. I tried other options before deciding on a hysterectomy but also researched and discussed many other therapies with my Dr before making my hysterectomy decision and plan. I also made sure that I had a good support system for my recovery and listened to my body as I recovered and not how and when people thought I should be better. Hysterectomy is not without risks but I was blessed to have an uneventful surgery and recovery which is why I share my positive story today.