Most women will have low days following a hysterectomy, but it’s wrong to assume it’s always going to be full blown depression of the type we tend to think about. Depression following surgery, any type of surgery and not just a hysterectomy, is very common indeed. There are a variety of things that can trigger it in women having a hysterectomy and they include a reaction to anaesthetic and pain killers, and the hormonal imbalance caused when the womb or ovaries are removed.
In addition to these physical triggers, emotional triggers may include an awareness of just how debilitating it can be recovering from major surgery, frustration when you can’t do everything you’d planned to do or sadness because of losing an essential piece of ‘womanhood’.
In most women, these feelings will pass relatively quickly, within a few weeks of surgery, and this process is aided by the rapid progress that can be made as you recover. The anaesthetic will gradually be flushed out of your body and your hormones, regardless of whether you’ve had your ovaries removed, will rebalance themselves naturally. Every time a new milestone is achieved – going out for a walk, a drive, a drink with friends, getting back to work etc – the sense of accomplishment helps the feelings of depression to dissipate.
For a few women though it can become more deep-seated and is often related to changes in their perception of themselves now they no longer have a womb. Perhaps you have children, but wanted more; perhaps you were never able to have them or perhaps you never thought you wanted them until you had the choice taken away. Whatever the reason it’s important to honour and acknowledge the feelings before you move on, the risk being if you don’t, they will come back.
It is often hard to determine if someone is truly depressed after a hysterectomy, or just feeling low. This is because common symptoms of depression like headache, aching muscles, pain, nausea, fatigue, sleep disruption or change in appetite are also common symptoms following surgery like a hysterectomy. It’s also important to remember, that feelings of fatigue will continue for several months post hysterectomy for almost everyone because this is the body’s way of letting you know it’s experienced a major trauma and needs time to recover.
If you are experience these symptoms and they pass over the course of a few weeks, the chances are they were only related to the hysterectomy.
If however, they continue and you also experience things like:
- Persistent sadness
- Loss of confidence and self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Avoiding others and becoming isolated and lonely
- Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting
- Undue feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Loss of sex drive and/ or sexual problems
- Thinking about suicide and death
Then it’s time to make an appointment with your GP to discuss what you can do. It’s easy to give yourself a hard time if your feeling continue and feel guilty about it, but it is one of the most common invisible illnesses and probably affects lots of people you already know. Many people with mild depression, perhaps triggered by their hysterectomy, recover without the need for drugs or therapies. Others, may need treatment in the form of talking therapies, perhaps seeing a counsellor through their GP and a few might be treated with a range of anti-depressant medication.
What’s important to remember is full-blown, deep depression is very rare after a hysterectomy.
What can you do to help yourself?
Regardless of whether you have the post-op blues or depression, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself recover.
- Take a daily walk: this exercise has the benefit of getting the anaesthetic out of your system more quickly, reducing the risk of DVT, strengthening your abdominal muscles; and the rhythm can create a meditative effect, reducing stress and anxiety.
- Drink plenty of water: we are often chronically dehydrated and this negatively impacts on mood and cognition, this may make you feel depressed when you aren’t. Water also helps remove toxins like pain killers and anaesthetic out of the body. 2 litres a day is the recommended level and you can take it in the odd weak tea or coffee, herbal teas and fruit juices too.
- Avoid sugar and stress: when we’re stressed we’ll often reach for comfort food in the form of sweet treats like biscuits. Not only are these foods not good for you, eating them can make you feel guilty because you know you shouldn’t. Don’t add to the guilt load you may already be feeling.
- Reduce your caffeine intake: this is especially important if you suffering sleep disturbance. Caffeine tends to increase insulin levels and this in turn lowers the blood sugar level. Low blood sugar levels can lead to feeling low or depressed.
Now available on our online store and all other online book store’s. Losing the Woman Within is a response to the 1000’s of women who have contacted us over the years who feel that their essential womanhood will be profoundly affected when they lose their womb.
It is a full and frank account of the range of possible emotional impacts that a hysterectomy can have. Written as an informative guide to what you may experience, it is also interspersed with the authors own experiences and story, which she has used to illustrate the emotions and situations she is talking about.