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Health & Sex

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Sex Can Improve After Hysterectomy

For some women, sexual satisfaction can improve after a hysterectomy.

The Operation continued...

A hysterectomy may be done vaginally or abdominally and may include removal not only of the uterus but also of the cervix and one or both ovaries. Ovary removal is performed in 51% of hysterectomies and is more likely to be done in older women and in those whose diagnosis is cancer, according to the CDC. In the JAMA study, the women had undergone a variety of approaches. Only 15 of the 1,299 women who entered the study had their cervix after the operation, although the trend now, says Rhodes, is to try to retain the cervix.

It's not known for sure, she says, whether losing the cervix affects sensation during sex. In their study, the researchers say that external orgasms, caused by clitoral stimulation, ''are not likely to be affected by hysterectomy,'' but point to a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine in 1993, in which the author speculated that removal of the cervix may hamper internal (vaginal) orgasms.

Hysterectomy as Sex Therapy?

All this is not to suggest that women should embrace major surgery as a means to improve their sex lives, the Maryland researchers say. Typically, improvements in a woman's sex life occur only if she has had sexual problems before the surgery.

But not all of the 600,000 American women who have hysterectomies each year are experiencing pain, says Michael Broder, M.D., Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA Medical School. And in his most recent study, published February 2000 in Obstetrics and Gynecology, he suggests that many women should first try other, less invasive treatments. ''I'd say that 10 to 15% of hysterectomies shouldn't be done,'' he says. Sometimes, the most common problems that lead to a hysterectomy (uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and abnormal bleeding) can be treated with hormone therapy or laparoscopic surgery that saves the uterus.

But for some, a hysterectomy can mean a return to a more satisfying sex life. "Now I can have sex whenever I want without discomfort," Harris says.

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