Hysterectomy. Ladies, we’ve all heard this word. Maybe you overheard an older woman talk about it in your youth or one of your friends has opened up to you about having one. It’s one of those things where someone mutters the word once and then it becomes… “you know, that one thing I was talking about.”
Yep, a hysterectomy falls on the long list of taboo women’s health topics that are usually on the hush-hush. But you know how we are with those types of subjects. There’s no such thing as a taboo or TMI here at Lily Bird. So, keep reading to learn what a hysterectomy is, why they’re done, and how they’re associated with those doggone bladder leaks.
What Is A Hysterectomy?
So, what exactly is a hysterectomy? If we take it back to high school anatomy class, then we know that hyster (or hustera in Greek) means womb and ectomy means to cut or remove. So, a hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a woman’s uterus. The whole uterus is usually removed, and sometimes the doctor also removes the fallopian tubes and ovaries. After a hysterectomy, women no longer have menstrual periods and can no longer become pregnant. Bye bye, ovulation. Hello, wearing white pants any time of the month you please.
And Why Do Some Women Get Them?
There are a variety of reasons that a woman might decide to break up with her uterus. Some ladies get uterine fibroids or struggle with endometriosis — and removing the uterus gets rid of those issues. Others may have cancer of the uterus, ovary, cervix, or endometrium (lining of uterus). No matter what the reasons are, hysterectomies happen quite often. Each year in the United States, nearly 500,000 women get hysterectomies.
How Common Are Leaks After A Hysterectomy?
On the up side, after a hysterectomy you’ll get to walk down the tampon aisle and just laugh at the rest of us. On the other, breaking up with your uterus can bring along other issues.
So, let’s talk bladder leaks. You know, the spontaneous spritz, drips, and sprinkles talk. Bladder leaks are especially after a hysterectomy. In fact, over 60 percent of women deal with bladder leaks after a hysterectomy. But, the dribbles and drips usually don’t happen right away. Women usually develop bladder leaks many years after the surgery.
Why Do Leaks Happen After a Hysterectomy?
So, what is it about getting a hysterectomy that triggers leaks? Does the bladder just get bold and develop a mind of its own without the uterus to put it in its place? Not exactly. But there are a few reasons why bladder leaks might show up.
Having surgery can weaken your pelvic floor or interfere with your bladder sphincter (which is like a door that keeps pee in). When those things happen, laughing, lifting something, sneezing, and anything that puts stress on the bladder is more likely to cause leaks .
A second reason is that your bladder can get a bit “overactive” because of the surgery. Just like an old lady who gets a little grumpy when bothered. Remember, the bladder is a muscle and muscles are controlled by nerves, so when those nerves start spazzing, then we get the feeling that we have to REALLY go which can lead to leaks. If you’ve experienced it then you know it’s challenging to suppress the urge.
A third and more serious reason is when hysterectomy surgery accidentally creates a fistula. A fistula is an abnormal connection between the urethra or bladder and the vagina. This causes continual leakage of urine and may be more difficult to resolve. But thankfully this is a rare occurrence!
So, What’s A Girl To Do?
Getting leaks after a hysterectomy may make the whole thing seem like a bad break up, but there is nothing to be ashamed or worried about. There are different approaches you can take to manage bladder leaks, like adding some extra protection in the form of pads and disposable underwear.
Depending on the type of incontinence it is, there are other solutions too. Stress incontinence, for example, can be managed with a variety of options, such as doing Kegel exercises, getting collagen injections in the urethra, or getting a surgical procedure called a sling operation.
But you’re probably also wondering…what about the leaks that come on after that gotta-go NOW feeling? Urge incontinence medications can manage an overactive bladder. Surgery is also an option, but needing surgery is a rare thing unless you have bladder prolapse.
What about fistulas? Because a fistula rarely closes spontaneously, you might need surgical correction. Fortunately, this is usually a very successful resolution.
Just To Be On The Safe Side…
Getting a hysterectomy and thinking about ways to prevent pesky bladder leaks? The best thing to do is to protect your pelvic floor after a hysterectomy. That means controlling constipation and straining. If you’re prone to constipation, consider a fiber-rich diet or use of gentle laxatives when needed.
Protecting your pelvic floor also means managing frequent or chronic coughs. Coughing causes your abdomen muscles to press down against the pelvis, and forceful or repeated coughing weakens the pelvic floor.
Exercising regularly helps your pelvic floor, too! Having great strength and muscle tone can prevent over-straining. And don’t forget the Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises. This exercise is one of the most important things you can do promote good pelvic floor health.
Leaks can happen after a hysterectomy, but they don’t have to get in the way of you living your best life. Need a little extra protection post uterus break up? Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas, delivered right to your door. Start your trial today.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH