Women's Sexual Function Improves After Hysterectomy
Nov. 23, 1999 (New York) -- Many women experience improvements in sexual
functioning as a result of having a hysterectomy, a large study in the November
24th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association finds.
Benefits of the surgery include increased frequency of sexual relations,
increased desire for sex, and a decrease in painful or uncomfortable
Researchers led by Julia C. Rhodes, MS, of the department of epidemiology
and preventive medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, suggest
that in addition to improvements resulting from the removal of the unhealthy
uterus, women may also have an improved quality of life following hysterectomy
that translates to a better sex life. Freedom from vaginal bleeding as well as
from fear of pregnancy also may play a role.
"There's a perception in the general public that sexual function is
impaired by hysterectomy," Rhodes tells WebMD. "But if you actually
look at the scientific literature, many of the previous studies agree with our
findings that sexual functioning actually improves after hysterectomy."
The 1,299 women participating in the Maryland Women's Health Study were
interviewed prior to hysterectomy and at three, six, 12, 18, and 24 months
after surgery. In all cases, hysterectomy was indicated for benign conditions.
During the interviews, women were asked about frequency of sexual relations in
the past month, frequency of pain during sexual relations, frequency and
intensity of orgasms, incidence of vaginal dryness, and desire for sex. Most
participants were between the ages of 35 and 49, were white, and were either
married or living with a partner.
Overall, the frequency of sexual relations increased from twice a month
before hysterectomy to approximately three times per month at both 12 and 24
months after the hysterectomy. Prior to hysterectomy, the incidence of painful
or uncomfortable intercourse was 41%. At 12 and 24 months after hysterectomy,
this percentage dropped dramatically to almost 20% and almost 15%,
respectively. Frequency of orgasm also increased from about 63% prior to
hysterectomy to about 72% at both 12 and 24 months afterwards. Likewise,
strength of orgasm rose from 45% of women experiencing strong orgasms before
hysterectomy to almost 60% and over 57% reporting strong orgasms at 12 and 24
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.