Health

The Life-Altering Side Effect Women Need To Know About Before Getting A Hysterectomy

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner··  6 min read
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The Life-Altering Side Effect Women Need To Know About Before Getting A Hysterectomy

In the United States, hysterectomies are being recommended even when they’re not necessary. They’re the second most performed surgical operation for women of reproductive age, but one major side effect is downplayed or even ignored by the medical community.

When a woman is advised to have her uterus partially or completely removed, she wants to trust her health care provider. She’s often scared, frustrated, and/or in pain. It’s important for her to know exactly what her options are instead of being sold a costly surgery without being told about the severity of the side effects. 

Unfortunately, this is not often the case. One of the most horrific side effects of having a hysterectomy – that no one talks about – is a prolapsed bladder, or cystocele. This is where the bladder actually falls out of the body or starts to. 

It sounds unreal. How can someone’s bladder just fall out? Well, as it turns out, a woman’s uterus is important to her pelvic health and serves to help support her internal structure. 

I found out about this issue when two of my close family members experienced it. Then as I discussed it with other women, I found three more women who had the same problem and had to seek medical attention. This definitely set off some internal alarms because I only know five women who have openly admitted to having a hysterectomy, yet all of them experienced a prolapse within a few years of the procedure. 

The Prolapsed Bladder Side Effect

We know that bladder health and uterine health are linked, but the most frustrating aspect of finding the link between hysterectomies and a bladder prolapse is that so little medical attention has been given to the connection between the two. There aren’t any real articles exploring this topic, and the two studies that have been conducted to measure this incidence were not able to offer a solid understanding of the risks involved.

The most recent study (from 2014) notes that the risk of a prolapse after a hysterectomy increases over time and varies between 1% and 46%. In addition, many doctors don’t even address this issue because it’s more likely to occur years after the procedure.

The risk of a prolapsed bladder after a hysterectomy increases over time.

It’s a medical free-for-all. Some hospitals and medical organizations openly list hysterectomy as one of the causes for a cystocele, whereas others do not

There are, of course, other factors that come into play. Like many health issues, family history, obesity, and physical straining are also factors, but the fact of the matter is that countless women are being advised to undergo a medical procedure without being told about this life-altering – and oftentimes embarrassing – side effect. If women are getting this procedure done in record numbers, and they’re also experiencing bladder issues this severe after the fact, you would think that the scientific community would take some kind of action. 

Preventative Surgeries Can Cause Other Issues Later

The uterus is important to women's pelvic health. The medical community doesn’t emphasize this enough. Our bodies are made the way they are for a reason. If a woman needs a hysterectomy to save her life, that’s understandable, but the most recent trend in medicine is to advise patients to have procedures – like a hysterectomy or mastectomy – as preventative measures. That means nothing is actually wrong with these organs and areas of the body, but they might become cancerous someday.

These preventative surgeries are sold as perfectly normal and healthy, but they host serious side effects and are unnecessary in many cases. Cancers and other diseases grow based on varying factors. Family history may be a connection, but it’s difficult to even pinpoint that being that many bad health habits are taught and ingrained generationally. 

Many bad health habits are taught and ingrained generationally. 

My grandmother and my mother both ended up with diabetes. They were both sugar addicts for most of their lives. I am not, and my body is far healthier than either of theirs were at my age or even younger. So am I at a higher risk of diabetes based on my family history, or does my individual diet control that? The jury is still out, and the data is inconclusive. 

The point is, the idea that surgery fixes everything is a farce. It may be helpful for some people, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. We’re learning this more and more as women undergo preventative surgeries and experience the consequences for years after the fact. 

Removing the uterus leads to instability of the pelvis and bladder. It also causes hormone imbalances that lead to weight gain, depression, early onset menopause, and other issues. The weight gain is of grave concern specifically because it also increases the risk of a prolapsed bladder, so all of this needs to be addressed and taken into account when considering a hysterectomy. 

Preventing a Prolapsed Bladder Even If You've Had a Hysterectomy

Sometimes getting a hysterectomy is a life-saver. It’s a great option for women who truly need it. Every woman needs to do what’s best for her. Thankfully there are exercises and practices to prevent a cystocele even after a hysterectomy.

Pelvic-friendly floor exercises and low-impact core strengthening can offer the body the support it needs.

Pelvic-friendly floor exercises and low-impact core strengthening can offer the body the support it needs to avoid a prolapsed bladder. Kegels and eating healthy to maintain a proper weight are also recommended. There’s even a fitness program called Restore Your Core that was developed to offer women support and exercise techniques for this very issue. There’s no way to determine how the body will respond, but this offers women more options post-surgery.

Of course, if these exercises don't work, the most commonly known treatment is to have a bladder sling surgery. This is FDA-approved and considered safe and effective. But these implementations are still fairly new, and concerning side effects are being reported. So again, women need to know the full story before they just assume that their doctor is offering them the best care possible. Getting a second opinion is something I always support. 

Closing Thoughts

Hysterectomies and partial hysterectomies are common procedures that can lead to life-long bladder issues, or even the bladder falling out. More research needs to be done to measure the risks and occurrences of prolapsed bladders after uterine removal, and women need to be made aware of what that means for their long-term care. Our health depends on it.  

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