For some women, sexual satisfaction can improve after a hysterectomy.
Feb. 21, 2000 (San Francisco) -- Janet Harris knew she should have a hysterectomy. Her doctors told her. Her mother told her. Her friends told her. But she just couldn't do it.
''I heard the stories about how your sex life is ruined and you go right into menopause," says Harris, 39, of Baltimore. She put off the surgery for years until the symptoms from her uterine fibroids got so bad -- aching legs, constant cramps, menstrual periods lasting 15 or 20 days a month -- that she had the operation.
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New Study Refutes Older Studies
The reluctance of women to undergo hysterectomy because of worries about a decrease in their sexual satisfaction isn't unfounded. Studies published in the British Medical Journal and Obstetrics and Gynecology have reported that between 13 and 37% of women report deterioration of their sex lives after hysterectomy.
However a recent study has found that sexual functioning improved overall after hysterectomy. For two years, researchers from the University of Maryland tracked sexual function in women at regular intervals after hysterectomy. "We saw a dramatic reduction in pain during sex," says Julia Rhodes, M.S., co-author of the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on November 24, 1999.
Two years after the surgery, 76.7% of women were having sexual relations, compared to 70.5% of women before surgery. The number who reported pain during sex plunged from 18.6 to 3.6%. Inability to attain orgasm fell from 7.6 to 4.9%. And low libido dropped from 10.4 to 6.2%. In all, 1,101 women between the ages of 35 to 49 completed the study; 90% had not yet entered menopause.
According to the latest hysterectomy data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), covering the years 1980 to 1993, women most likely to have a hysterectomy are between the ages 40 and 44, while 36% are between the ages of 25 and 39.