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Hysterectomy and post traumatic stress

The Hysterectomy Association recently helped in gathering research evidence looking at the emotional impact of a hysterectomy.  What the study found was that whilst a hysterectomy on its own probably would not create a situation where women suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it could be a contributory factor if the woman had also suffered previous events or illnesses which had a high stress factor involved. If this is the case then the hysterectomy simply acts as a trigger.

(PTSD Symptoms following hysterectomy: Alexithymeia and health locus of control, Wright, JD, University of Plymouth).

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Linda Parkinson-Hardman

Transformational coach and founder of the Hysterectomy Association. Professionally I'm an information scientist who specialises in the adoption and engagement of digital technologies. I am a writer and author of nine books to date, and I've edited a further seven; phew what a lot for a Thursday afternoon :-)

This Post Has 26 Comments
  1. I had op year and a half ago which turned into an emergency due to abdominal bleeding within a few hours, had a five pint blood transfusion. 3 month recovery and even now lots of pain/discomfort, more visits to gp and scans as scar adhesions still very painful/sore. I can’t seem to forget the trauma of my hystorectomy experience, while I’m much better than i was, back to work and doing almost all my daily activities I can’t shake the awful experience out of my mind.

  2. Hi Viola, you probably went back to work too soon and did too much initially. Now it sounds like depression which can be related to the menopause. Try chatting with your GP about changing the variety and dose of HRT to see if that helps.

  3. Hi
    I had hysterectomy in sept 2012. Prior to the abdominal hysterectomy I had treatment to make the fibroids smaller for 6months so that they were operable. This brought a lot of problemscaused hot flashes every 2hrs day and night. It was hell! Sleeping on sleeping tablets was not that helpfull I never managed a whole night sleep even with pills. During this time I continued working fulltime. Then in May 2012 they decided to do a keyhole hysterectomy surgery. That did not work as when they went in one of the fibroids was attached to the bowel therefore keyhole was abandoned but I had to be off work for 2weeks following with the keyhole. Then in Sept 2012 an abdominal hysterectomy was done. I was off work for 8weeks and went back to work gradually now I wish I hadnt. Post surgery the hot flashes returned with a vengeance, I was put on HRT but i am still having hotflashes but not as bad as before I am on a high dose but still. I am not sleeping well insomnia big time, i have mood swings lost a lot of confidents in myself my ability to work and feel very stressed and sobbing all the time. Been given some antidepressants but got a very bad reaction I got worse now i am waiting for CBT throuhg my GP. I am now been advised to be off work for 2wks by my GP. he says being at work is not helping I need time out.
    Any ideas or advise will be so welcome on what has worked for some people out there! or some one to share this experience.
    Thanks
    V

  4. Hi Sheri, it will pass but it will take time and it as much related to the anaesthesia from surgery and the hormonal surge you will have had following surgery as anything to do with the emotions. It certainly sounds like you went back to work too soon and perhaps it might be worth considering returning to sick leave for a couple of weeks.

  5. I had a total hysterectomy nine weeks ago because of fibroids. My uterus and cervix were removed but I kept the ovaries. Since surgery I am not myself. I think I am falling into depression which scares me to death because I have a husband and eight year old child who needs me. I can’t sleep without taking sleeping pills and during the daytime I cry more than I laugh. I returned to work seven weeks after surgery because I thought it will help to be around people again, but now I think that was a mistake. I have an undergraduate and master’s degree in psychology, so I know where I am heading if I don’t get a grip on myself. My husband says he will help with the house chores and the homework of our son, but he don’t. If I don’t cook, do the laundry or help with homework then I feel it won’t get done. Recently I got lightheaded and fell, so I am taking pain medication again which I hate. Please tell me someone else has experienced this and this too shall pass. Sherl

  6. HI Debbie, it sounds like the talking therapies might be more helpful to you than medical intervention per se. In the UK you can ask your GP for a referral into the counselling system and take it from there.

  7. I am looking tonight at this site because I believe I have PTSD. I believe it started when I was a child and forced into some rough medical care and a surgery. I was scared to death of doctors. Since then I had 2 children and I am not sure how I made it through that emotionally. I felt violated. Then it was an elbow replacement at 22 & hysterectomy at 27. That was the most horrible experience. I felt totally violated and forced to go through it. I was scarred to death and mortified by everything that was done to me. There are lasting problems from the surgery as well. In more recent years I lost both of my children in car accidents and more recently my parents. The medical people were totally hopeless in all those losses plus some of it was pure highway robbery. I believe doctors actually caused the death of my parents with their total incompetence. A few years ago I hurt my knee and thought I was going to have to have surgery to walk. That really brought all this back home. That eventually healed but now I am faced with a failing elbow and possibly another replacement. I don’t think I can get through this without having a heart attack. The PSTD is so intense that I can hardly breathe at times. Just the thought of talking to a doctor brings it on and the thought of spending time near a hospital muchless in one is terrifying. I am stuff between a rock and a hard place. Living with a painful arm is horrible but dealing with another doctor experience is horrifying. Does anyone have any advice. I have tried to educate myself about all this but it doesn’t help. I don’t believe in conventional medicine. It seems to be a poke down the drugs, hack and wack business interested in money.

  8. Hi Cathy, I’m not sure what surgery you had as you don’t say but in the UK, a hysterectomy is classed as major surgery and not done as day surgery. It sounds like you have been seriously traumatised by your experience and are quite distraught about it all. I’m not sure what I can do to make you feel better, but perhaps just getting it out has been cathartic in some way.

  9. I went in for what was called by the physician as a routine procedure (day surgery). There was nothing routine -the physician made a mistake (that can happen during surgery) causing bleeding that went undetected until I stopped breathing & the rapid response team had to be called. It was the charge nurse that realized something was wrong and I’m sure told the doctor. I was slowly bleeding to death, given 2 units of blood and had a second surgery to correct the mistake -30 hours later. The hospital released me the following evening -in my discharge paperwork I read high risk of infection and asked for antibodtics out of fear something else would go wrong; the hospital refused. Less than 24 hours after being released I was taken back to the emergency room with a temp of 103, an extended black stomach -pumped with antibodtics to yet again keep me alive. My routine surgery turned into a hospital stay of 6 days, 2 surgeries and a life not worth living. I had to take 12 weeks off work. My surgery was in Feb 2010, in April I was diagnosied with PTSD, 2+ years later I am still on a 4 day work week and see a doctor once a week-that doctor is the one keeping me a live. I’m not living anymore I’m existing, I went from being an organized, confident loving person to one that wishes I had never left the hospital -that God would have taken me. My family suffers -I wrote to the hospital, had a meeting to discuss the mistake and the terrible outcome I now have to live with. They assured me they would look into it -I explained that if I made a mistake I would be held accountable -the hospital fed me to their attorney -it took me 2 years to be able to write what I had gone through, put in detail the emotional and financial loss I have from the surgery I was assured would be a day (routine) surgery. I realize there can be risks involved in any surgery but to have 2 near deaths-and not be compensated for the mistakes that were made- has left me with no faith in the health care field, left me questioning everything I do; I feel like I made the mistake even more so now that no one is being held accountable. Hospital & doctors don’t care -if they had I would not have waited over 30 hours for the 2nd surgery, I would not have had to be returned to the emergency room knocking on deaths door yet again. How do they sleep at night -I’m sure much better than I do. What sleep I do get is full of ugly nightmares. The hospitals attorney suggested I get an attorney (why) should their mistake cost me anymore than it already has -I’m sure this will be swept under the carpet and it’s a shame. If they were held accountable maybe they would take more time in the operating room instead of treating people like we’re at a drive through window-rushing you through so they can make more money -yet it’s not considered neglient. Had God taken me they would have a wrongful death lawsuit -since I am left to exist they pay nothing -I am paying with my life.

  10. Hi Maureen – I am your age , had TAH but kept ovaries (cervical cancer) 8th Feb 2012, but like you have not been able to have children which I understand is a great sadness. The info on this site is a great help & I connected with a support group of Feb ladies and we talk on facebook now. I could not have got through this without them & also a wonderful husband. As far as intimacy is concerned, we waited until 9 wks post-op, but explored a concept of sensate focus (google it) from about 7wks onwards to reconnect. You should be feeling better now but don’t fret if the tears/emotions seem to overwhelm – it takes the time it take & the tissues are never far from me nearly 4 months on. hugs, Kate :o)

  11. I’d be very surprised if you felt sexy at this stage Maureen – you’ve just had major surgery and really shouldn’t even be thinking about it for another month at least. Don’t worry though, you will feel better soon though 🙂

  12. i recently had a full hysterectomy (2wks ago) had suffered since i was 9 with heavy periods leading onto pid then fibroids ovarian cyst and endometriosis. my shopping list has now gone but with some scarring on my bowl due to my left tube and ovary being stuck together. I was unable to have children and now at the age of 45 regret this terribly. my recovery is very slow and painful with lots of tears along the way. My husband thankfully is very understanding but am very wary of the sexual part as i dont feel sexy at all!!!

  13. Hi ,its a year on since your op how are you feeling now?
    I am new to this i have had my op in july 2011 i can relate to your trauma.
    All the things you have stated sounds like me just one major difference is that my fiance mentally abusees me and says so hurtful things ,like you know why you have not got a womb , good you cant have no more children etc.I feel so empty lost depressed fustrated angry tearful no sense of control.
    I feel as no one understands no suport. My fiance has made me feel worse i feel as if i am having a break down does it get any better, can anybody relate.

  14. wow………………..

    I too am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape as an adult. I feel the same way you do about anyone touching me in a medical situation other than the person I hire to take care of me. They have no right to invade your privacy, to invade your sacred space. I hope you had severe leg spasms and managed, in your sleep, to kick em in the face and cause some permanant damage, the way they did you you.

    Imaging that!

    I’m so sorry for all that you have experienced. I understand!!!

  15. Gee, that barely addressed her concerns. What about the freaking assult? I am enraged FOR her. I am disgusted at how disrespected we are when we are under general anesthesia, trusting that we are being cared for. Medical students should not be allowed to participate in any part of the surgery without the woman’s written permission; only the doc or his/her assistant should be allowed to ‘go there’. I’m enraged.

    Please let us know how you’re doing. I care!!!

  16. My dear hystersister ~ I see that it’s been over a year since you posted your comment. I hear your pain and feelings of hoplessness.

    Firstly let me emphasize one thing: You are not the failure. Your husband was. He was more than a jerk to leave you with two small children, three months after hysterectomy. That’s just so unacceptable. One day I think he’ll realize what he did and feel the deep sense of shame and sorrow that is his due. If he doesn’t experience it this life, then he will bring the karma with him into the next, and next time he just might be a woman who needs to experience exactly what he dished out to you.

    I hope you’re doing better.

  17. hello marion, i underwent my op on 18th july 2011. abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral removal of fallopian tubes plus ovaries. woke up to find they had left my cervix in place due to much the same reasons as yourself. being a nurse my self i logically understood the reasoning behind this but i feel let down as i will still have to be subjected to smears. i can asure you though that all procedures you are comcerned about will have been carried out with total respect and dignity. i have asisted in theatre with ladies !! ops on many occaisions and everyone always behaves in a professional manner at all times.
    Just be kind to your self ,and try not to dwell on this too much. xxx

  18. I had a subtotal hysterectomy four weeks ago. A part of the cervix was left in place as it had become attached to the wall of the vagina and could not be removed. I have been left feeling thoroughly traumatised even though I know the operation was essential and all other avenues to stop my excessive bleeding had been tried. As a former survivor of sexual abuse I can only echo what Margaret said. I feel so traumatised by the thought of unknown hands inside me particularly the male gynaecologist. I also feel so ashamed that things were done to me when I was unaware – things like trimming my pubic hair and putting on knickers after the op while I was unconscious. I have been very depressed since the operation and cannot get the images of abuse out of my head. In contrast the previous op I had under spinal block was much better as I could see who was doing what and found the female surgeon very respectful.

  19. It’s always hard when we hear about women who have had such a traumatic experience and I have to say that although this sort of incident is rare, as are the complications, any type of surgery (not just hysterectomy) can have it’s casualties, which is why being thoroughly prepared and informed is key to minimising the risk. My advice is to ask questions, lots of questions and then you can go ahead feeling that you have given yourself the best possible chance of success.

  20. I was told by my consultant that I had a high chance of cancer in November 2009. She very strongly advised removal of both ovaries (with cysts) and uterus and cervix. “It’s what I would do; do you want problems in the future?” was the line. There was no information about the effect on me or my ability to achieve orgasm. The operation as a mess, the abdominal wound reopened, I had heavy bleeding from my vagina for 10 weeks. The abdominal wound did not finally close until May 2010. There was no sign of cancer (I am of course grateful). In the records I have now obtained the GP states the post-menopausal bleeding (the reason for referral) was she felt only a hormonal blip, the GP specialist wrote I had a healthy cervix, and the blood test pre operation strongly suggested I did not have cancer. I am distressed beyond believe at being castrated. A year ago I was slightly worried I had cancer. I am now on codeine and gabapentine for pain, and receiving physiotherapy to try to reduce the huge amount of scar tissue. (This I pay for as I cannot bear to go near the hospital) I have also found out that even though I said I would not agree to a vaginal examination before the operation (I had an abdominal TAH and both ovaries removed) once I was under the GA my legs were put in stirrups and 3 or 4 people put their hands in my vagina against my express wishes to the contrary (a nurse told me by accident after the event) and I now have PTSS as I feel I have been assaulted. With the help of the IACS I am complaining to the hospital. I will also be complaining to the BMC about this consultant. Be very careful if you decide on this operation. I am struggling to return to work after 7 month off and only manage part time at the moment. I find it deeply upsetting that this woman can butcher me and assault me and just leave me to cope. I used to consider myself a lucky and happy person. I am now in pain every day, often have to take sleeping tablets to get a night’s sleep and attending counselling.

  21. Hi Debbie. I’m always dismayed when I see someone who has had the experience you have had, because although there are many women that have a bad experience of hysterectomy, there are many more that have a very positive one too and it’s always so sad to hear when it isn’t such a good thing. I don’t know how the legal action is going but I hope it goes well for you because there are cases of malpractice that still happen even now and medical practitioners need to know that it’s not OK to play God.

  22. Lisa i know exactly how you feel i had a radical hysterectomy 15yrs ago aged 30,have 4 children.I believe i have changed personality i have pushed friends and family away over the years.Im taking legal action as i was in the middle of a breakdown when they did the op.
    my organs wer healthy and remarkable!! said my doctor at my 6 week check. Why the hell did they take them out then? It is only now after all these years that i feel i can seek legal advice without breaking down, as all the women in the world need to know we have been castrated!! I wonder what men would be like if they had to make a choice of having their testicles removed?? sorry your man left but your better off without him if he walks so quick,im lucky my husband bless him has stuck by me but hes depressed as well.It affects all the family i just didnt realize. xx take care and emember you are not alone,ther are hundreds of thousands of us who feel the same way too. Debbie

  23. I had my hysterectomy 3 mths ago,i have a six year old daughter and a three year old son, my husband and myself were going through a rough patch and sine my op he has decided he “cant cope wiht me” anymore and has left us, i have no control over my feelings at the moment and am on antidepressants , im constantly in tears and fell just amasiive failure to all concerned,i fell as nobody understands how im feeling and the lack of support and understanding from my husband has made matters worse , what do i do ?

  24. Whilst it can never be certain that HRT will definitely help, it should be something that is explored simply because depression after hysterectomy can be caused by drops in the female sex hormones. Even if this is not the case, then the lack of oestrogen can exacerbate existing emotional problems which might be easier to cope with if the hormone levels are corrected. I suspect a trip to your GP to have a chat might be in order as they will be able to check you out more thoroughly and suggest an appropriate course of action, which may, or may not, involve HRT and possibly counselling as well.

  25. I had a hysterectomy last june, I have had a lot of stress last year with pre tests prior to it and blood transfusion after and other major family problems. I am feeling depressed and left my partner which I seriously regret. Could HRT help? I am now 57 years old.

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