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Women's Health

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Women's Sexual Function Improves After Hysterectomy

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Approximately 37% of women reported no vaginal dryness prior to hysterectomy. At 12 and 24 months posthysterectomy, approximately 47% reported no vaginal dryness. However, 9% of women who did not have vaginal dryness before hysterectomy reported this problem after surgery and 35% of women with vaginal dryness before hysterectomy reported persistence of the problem. Use of hormone replacement therapy or lubricants can alleviate vaginal dryness and should be discussed with patients prior to hysterectomy so they can be prepared should vaginal dryness develop, the researchers say.

Frequency of sexual desire increased significantly, with more than 70% of women who reported low libido before hysterectomy reporting an increase in desire at 12 months. Very few women with normal libido before hysterectomy reported a decreased desire for sex. Of 325 women who reported no sexual activity prior to hysterectomy, over 140 were sexually active in the months prior to the 12-month interview and almost 150 were sexually active in the months prior to the 24-month interview.

Rhodes says the findings will not be a surprise to physicians who perform hysterectomies because most have known for years that the majority of women have good outcomes in terms of sexual functioning. "One of the things this study can be used for is to help many of those physicians reassure their patients by showing that indeed, this large group of women did feel better after hysterectomy," she says.

Another significant finding was that women who were depressed prior to having a hysterectomy had less improvements in sexual functioning than nondepressed women. Rhodes and colleagues suggest future research should examine whether giving antidepressants prior to hysterectomy improves symptoms as well as sexual outcomes.

Vital Information:

  • After having a hysterectomy, many women experience an improvement in sexual functioning, including increased frequency of sex, increased desire, and a decrease in painful or uncomfortable intercourse.
  • There is a general perception that a hysterectomy may actually impair sexual function, but now physicians have scientific data to reassure patients that this is not the case.
  • Women who were depressed prior to hysterectomy showed less improvement than those who were not depressed.
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