A Hysterectomy Helped Heavy Menopausal Period Pain | Stella
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How a hysterectomy relieved heavy menopausal period pain

byAmanda

Amanda explains how having a sub-total hysterectomy helped liberate her from the exhaustion and pain of heavy periods…

Six years ago, I had a sub-total hysterectomy which saved my life. When I woke from the operation, I knew I was better and the world would be ok again even despite the heavy pain medication I was on. It was the best thing I had ever done and made a huge difference to my quality of life.

I’m a fit, active woman with lots of energy, yet the symptoms I was managing made day-to-day functioning very difficult. After the operation, I finally fully appreciated how ill I’d been and just how much pain and discomfort I‘d coped with on a daily basis. 

Overwhelmed by the flow

If I moved in my sleep, I’d flood the bed”

My menopause symptoms crept up on me so gradually that it was hard to recognise what was happening. I’d always seen myself as extremely capable under pressure and I’d just accepted them as my new default. I just didn’t realise my symptoms were down to menopause even though, at the time, I was in a long-term relationship with another woman who had experienced menopause a few years ahead of me.

My periods had slowly been getting heavier and heavier. If I moved in my sleep, I’d flood the bed. If I went to the loo wearing a tampon and two thick super-absorbent towels, I’d flood the loo. 

The flow was so thick and fast during my period’s peak each month, I didn’t want to go anywhere for at least one day. These were not erratic but regular periods too – I was bleeding every 21 days. My body was literally spending 21 days replacing my red blood cells only to lose them all again.

Heavy bleeding’s shattering impact

It finally hit me that I was too tired, in pain and not having fun anymore”

I was absolutely knackered. Not only was I exhausted from losing so much blood, but my sleep was also dreadful. I was waking up three or four times a night to have a wee. I was in a lot of pain and my sex life was challenging. I couldn’t bear the idea of penetrative sex. 

I was also having hot flushes too. I can remember one meeting where I threw open the window and fleetingly mused if I knew my colleagues well enough to take off all my clothes, I was that hot!

It finally hit me that I was too tired, in pain and not having fun anymore – everything was totally horrible. What if this was my life for the next 40 years? I couldn’t bear it any longer. Unsure how to cope, I went to my GP. I explained what was happening and asked if I should try a Mirena coil or the pill? As a gay woman, I’d never needed to use contraception and hormones before.

Making an informed decision

I made the choice to keep my ovaries”

My doctor explained that she wanted to understand why I was bleeding before prescribing or suggesting treatment. She booked me an ultrasound and said we could go from there. The ultrasound revealed that I had a fibroid the size of a fist pressing on my bladder, which is why I needed to get up in the night several times. It was also found that I had endometriosis and menorrhagia, which would explain the abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding, and why sex could sometimes be difficult.

My doctor suggested I might want to consider a sub-total hysterectomy, where they would remove my womb, cervix and fallopian tubes. My consultant explained the balance of risks between breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and I made the choice to keep my ovaries. This is why the operation is called a sub-total hysterectomy. If you have your ovaries removed they recommend HRT.  

At the time I was a professional woman in the health industry who knew her way around commissioning and the system but still found it hard to navigate my way. I did a lot of research into doctors before settling for a laparoscopic procedure and my consultant. It was about five months between telling my GP and then having the operation. I was very lucky.

Plan a realistic recovery time

It remains the best decision I ever made”

I hadn’t really thought through my recovery time from a hysterectomy. I’d allowed a month off work but it was seven weeks before I could drive, three months until I felt fit enough for a decent walk and six months until I was back to feeling healthy. 

Regardless of the recovery time, the operation was worth it and it remains the best decision I ever made. In fact, many of my friends who’ve had the procedure agree with me. I didn’t even realise how many women I knew had gone through a hysterectomy – it’s hardly talked about. It seems to still be taboo today and I can’t really understand why – almost all the women I know who had serious symptoms found it helped them so much.

I occasionally get hot flushes because you continue with your menopause when you keep your ovaries, but at a much less significant level.  My core strength in my stomach muscles is less than it was, but I suspect no different to women who have had caesareans. I am back to skiing hard, hill climbing, and playing tennis, and my mental health is fine.

Find out more about hot flushes in our menopause symptoms library.

Final word

This study followed 1,320 women over the course of 10 years and found that longer menstrual bleeding with more days of spotting plus heavier bleeding was completely normal during menopause. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or if bleeding persists.

Read more about the treatment for heavy periods or about the stages of menopause on our blog.