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A Woman’s Scourge

Ladies, you are not "finished after having hysterectomy!" While menopause marks the end of your reproductive cycle, it does not have to signal the end of your sexuality. Feeling low and tearful after any operation is normal. This may happen to you after hysterectomy as well, but there is no reason to expect any long term feelings of depression.

There are several reasons why hysterectomy is done, if a woman has malignant disease of the uterus or surrounding organs – ovaries, for example – clearly she will be healthier without them. In this case hysterectomy is a life-saving operation. It is also done for a woman who has pain and bleeding due to collapse of the tissue that supports the uterus in its place, which is a common after effect of several childbirths with prolonged labour, especially in our country, where the concept of family planning is not yet fully accepted. Chronic and recurrent infection of the sort may also lead to hysterectomy. Fibroids, too, may lead a surgeon to suggest hysterectomy to a middle-ages woman who doesn’t want any more children. These fleshy non-malignant lumps can cause considerable pain and heavy bleeding with consequent discomfort. Some women who bleed heavily during periods and suffer severe pain, but who don’t have fibroids may also be offered hysterectomy. Although it is true that hysterectomy gets rid of the symptoms, many experts believe that it is not the best way to deal with such bleeding. This is because it can be caused not by disease of the organ, but by underlying stress, which affects the hormone balance. In such cases, particularly in our country where the incidence of stress is very high, doctors feel it is better to have help in dealing with stress.

Wherever possible, modern surgeons use vaginal route for hysterectomy, thus avoiding any visible scars. Others find it necessary to reach the uterus via an incision in the belly. What is removed depends on why the operation is being done. Surgeons always try to preserve the ovaries if they can, since this disturbs the hormone balance less. But in some cases it may be necessary to remove them and the tubes as well. Since there have been reports of women having the operation unnecessarily, anyone suffering from functional bleeding as opposed to the disease mentioned should make sure she has been given all the facts before accepting surgery.

If a woman has had the operation to deal with a malignancy or severe pain and bleeding, she will feel much better. If she is anaemic, she will certainly have been tired and depressed and once the offending organ has been removed, she can go back to being her old self. She may put on some weight at this stage if she isn’t careful; improved well-being often encourages people to eat more. A woman who has had the operation for dysfunctional uterine bleeding, may find she feels no better. In fact she may feel worse in some ways and suffer from depression. This is because the operation has only removed the target organ of her stress – the uterus – not the stress itself. She may need a good deal of sympathetic counselling and support to help her come to terms with her original problems, but also the fact that she has parted with an ASPECT OF HERSELF! Women who have not been able to have children may also be extra depressed by the operation, having to face up to the finality of the situation. All this can contribute to a general feeling of loss, which may leave her convinced that her FEMINITY HAS GONE FOR EVER. A woman is still a woman even if she has lost the organs that enable her to have babies. They are, after all, more than mere wombs on legs! A woman can be as attractive, as charming, as useful and as active as she was before. But, sadly, not all women believe this. The change in oestrogen levels as a result of the operation can reduce the desire for sex, but there is more to female sex drive than mere hormones. It is as much a mental thing as a physical one, the important thing is to maintain sexual contact with the partner. If a woman gives up sex for a long time after the operation, she may find that she looses her interest in starting again. That is why many sensible surgeons advise their patients to start having sexual intercourse three or four weeks after the operation.

After-effects that do not happen, but for which the operation is often unjustly blamed are the growth of facial hair and increased wrinkling of the skin. The fact is that this happens to all women eventually, whether they have hysterectomies or not. For most of them, the onset of these tiresome marks of time are so insidious they, just don’t notice them until they are well established, but having an operation tends to make them much more likely to examine themselves critically.

If the ovaries are removed during the operation, then the effect is of an immediate menopause. This can lead to uncomfortable hot flushes and some vaginal dryness – the only proven symptoms of oestrogen deficiency and where possible, the oestrogen will be given as HRT, but if it can’t be, for reasons to do with a woman’s general health, then there are other remedies.

Majority of women having the operation however, keep their ovaries and they go on functioning as they did, even though there are, of course, no more periods to show for it and no possibility of pregnancy. But there are still chances of premenstrual symptoms. In due course, these women will have menopause, though they may find it happens a little earlier.

The fact is that the operation of hysterectomy needn’t make a lot of difference to a happy woman’s life. It can’t obviously remove misery due to an unhappy marriage, a selfish husband, uncaring relatives (if it were as easy as that!), but it ca cure a physical disease. After having it, a woman can be as good as she ever was, with the added vigour that comes from having got rid of tiresome symptoms. She won’t have lost an atom of her femininity, which really is as much to do with attitude of mind as the state of the body.

Whether women in our society have had hysterectomy or not, makes no difference. They still retain their basic femininity, the symbol of compassion, tenderness, love, mercy and kindness. They incorporate in their very being, as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters the divine virtues, which I feel the Almighty has bestowed upon them in abundant measure and in spite of suppression and suffocation by the forces of retrogression and obscurantism, they are bravely trying to transform with faith, courage and hope, a tyrannical and tormenting society into a benevolent and beneficent one.


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