Hysterectomy at 38

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 19.58.01.pngAs Anna Wicks, co-founder of @laraandollie says a few points into her list, Hysterectomies are something we tend to assume happen to ‘older women’. Even then I had little idea of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of it.

I love the submissions I get for this blog. Time and time again they shed light on important issues that otherwise get left in the shadows or cast as ‘things we just don’t talk about’.  Which is madness. We have to talk. We have to share our stories. Being heard makes us less alone and more understood. So thank you Anna for opening up.

  • I spent my 20s trying not to get pregnant then 30s trying to get pregnant and have two amazing children thanks to IVF.

  • But as with infertility, no one really talks about the fact that carrying a child or childbirth can cause physiological problems.

  • I expected to give birth and be back pounding the pavements pushing my baby 3 days later – ‘down there’ all back to normal – stitches or no stitches.

  • I’d never heard of a prolapse. And definitely not happening as a result of pregnancy and child birth.

  • I thought hysterectomies were for older women.

  • And never in a million years did I think I’d be going through such surgery aged 38 and as a result of being pregnant and giving birth naturally after two straightforward (ish) births.

  • My first birth was quick and straightforward ish – a few hours pushing, episiotomy and forceps. My recovery was ok, the midwives checked me and said I was fine.

  • A few months in things didn’t feel right and I felt a bulge, which wasn’t painful it just felt odd. My GP said I needed to do more pelvic floors. A consultant said I had a vaginal wall prolapse (a cystocele) but if I wanted more kids, this was my new norm.

  • My son was born 2.5 years later – quick labour, straightforward water birth with very little pushing and no stitches (I was so lucky!)

  • But post birth things felt worse and I felt more of a bulge so I went to see a gynaecologist who said I had a pretty bad cystocele; ‘an anterior prolapse where the bladder bulges into the front wall of the vagina’.

  • I also had a suspected prolapse of the uterus and cervix/top of the vagina. And it was bad enough that at some stage I would need prolapse repair surgery and probably a hysterectomy.

  • I wasn’t hugely shocked, just relieved to have a diagnosis for why I felt weird. And there was no rush.

  • But my prolapse got progressively worse physical activity beyond a walk wasn’t comfortable, running was out of the question. Sitting on the floor made the bulge worse and even going to the loo was becoming trickier – to be graphic I got to the stage where I had to push it back in to go for a wee.

  • I’m an active person, I didn’t want to be restrained by this. And no time is a good time to have surgery with kids, but before my baby was walking/super clingy seemed sensible.

  • And my gynaecologist said timing was up to me. So I chose to go for surgery, justifying it by the fact that thousands of women (55,000) have it every year so I’d be fine.

  • I researched women my age having prolapses/surgery and found little. The hysterectomy charity website was great but it was mainly geared to older women.

  • Charlie was 8 months old. I was still breastfeeding.

  • As I signed my surgery consent forms and sat waiting for my op I felt good. Bloody petrified but good. Surgery was 2 hours. I’d be home the next day. Then a 6-8 week recovery with no lifting or physical activity. I have amazing support from my family and I am young and fit so will bounce back.

  • Damn I was naive.

  • 7 hours later I woke up in HDU (high dependency unit) strapped up to heart rate monitors oxygen masks and under 5 blankets.

  • I won’t dwell on what happened because that’s not really the point of this and what happened does happen in surgery. But I haemorrhaged whilst in recovery so they had to put me back under to stop the bleeding and give me a blood transfusion

  • The operation itself had gone really well but as I’d only given birth 8 months previously my uterus was very vascular and also my reserves were low – I’d been through IVF, grown a baby and exclusively breast fed so my body didn’t have much left for a fight!

  • The next few days were hideous. More blood transfusions and I felt horrendous. My poor family were worried sick and I felt guilty and stupid for taking such a big decision so lightly.

  • I was home after 4 nights, but had 3 further infections so felt like I had flu and was constantly on antibiotics. My body was just struggling to recover.

  • But thanks to an amazing amount of support and love from my brilliant family, friends and my gynaecologist, 3 months later I was almost back to normal.

  • I’m still doing pelvic floor physio and whilst things aren’t perfect they’re a lot better!Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 20.02.11.png

  • Whilst it was a hideous time and I really regretted my decision at the time in the depths of feeling so ill, I am now glad I did it. Especially if I look back at how bad my prolapse was and how it was affecting me. There’s no way I could do the things I do now with my kids, work, exercise etc with my prolapse like it was.

  • I just wish I had felt better informed beyond just what my gynaecologist told me. And less alone i.e. I felt/still feel like I am the only person to have had such a bad prolapse so young

  • There seems to be little support or help for women with physiological problems post birth – and there’s definitely not many people talking about it

  • Ok, the last thing you need to hear during pregnancy is that after a natural birth your vagina could be ruined for life. Post birth issues such as tears, episiotomies, stitches, prolapses, piles, incontinence, diactasis recti (stomach muscles not going back together),  etc, just still seem so taboo.

  • And you’re not an alien if you have problems, in fact you’re probably in the majority. 

  • The pre and during birth support I received on the NHS was brilliant. But post birth care (in my experience) fell off a massive cliff.

  • Women shouldn’t feel silly asking midwives and GPs to check the state of their vaginas post birth (I did!). In fact I believe it should be a proper mandatory examination.

  • And if things aren’t recovering normally then opportunities to be seen by gynaecologists and specialists should also be mandatory. 

  • By telling my story I want to encourage anyone who feels like something isn’t right to not feel scared to see someone and get answers. And to not feel alone or like a alien.

  • Lots of prolapses can be small and reversible /manageable with pelvic floor exercises. And a few (like mine) can’t.

  • If you have something more serious I’d say weigh up how much it really is affecting your every day life.

  • Prolapse surgery alone, whilst fairly straightforward, is still surgery under general anaesthetic. However the recovery is 4-6 weeks of no heavy lifting which is a massive challenge as a mum.

  • A hysterectomy is however a much bigger operation and making the decision to have one shouldn’t be taken lightly. Particularly if you have children, work etc.

  • And my passing gift… Pelvic floor exercises. Do them. Religiously. Now. They wouldn’t have really helped me as physiologically my tissue is weak apparently, but if I don’t do them now my prolapse could come back.

  • Plus doing them reduces the risk of prolapsing in later life – yup apparently 40% of women in the UK over 50 will suffer from a prolapse so get squeezing!!!!!!

  • And there’s a free NHS App called Squeezy which sends you reminders to do them – it’s brilliant: http://www.squeezyapp.co.uk Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 20.00.54.png

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