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Hysterectomy or the surgical removal of ovaries and/or cervix from a woman’s body is a done as a remedy to certain gynaecological problems. This method essentially removes the potential incubator for a foetus to grow. Many times, the fallopian tube and the ovaries are untouched while the uterus is removed. This leaves behind the organs producing the egg and consequently, many women wonder if they still stand a chance in bearing a child, after a hysterectomy. Although the obvious answer to this is a no, the chances of fertilization and embryo formation cannot be ruled out. Read on to know more about the chances of getting pregnant after a hysterectomy surgery.
What is Hysterectomy and Why You Need it?
Hysterectomy refers to the permanent removal of one or more organs of a female reproductive system in order to treat an underpinning gynaecological condition. It is usually done to treat conditions like fibroids, uterine prolapse, heavy bleeding, endometriosis, adenomyosis, cancer, etc. A partial hysterectomy that involves the removal of the uterus or a complete hysterectomy that involves the removal of both the uterus and the cervix, is one of the most common surgeries that women across the world undergo to treat a number of reproductive disorders.
As it is irreversible, it is usually performed after evaluating other treatment options, the age of the patient, the number of offerings, etc. This treatment usually reduces the childbearing chances for the woman to zero. Therefore, doctors usually consider it as a treatment option for women in their fertile years, only when it is absolutely needed. The procedure does not affect the sex life or the overall health of the woman and in fact, relieves her from the pain and discomfort that she experienced previously.
Can You Get Pregnant If You Do Not Have Uterus?
The uterus is a very critical reproductive organ. During the conception of a baby, the egg and the sperm fuse to form an embryo, the uterus serves as a comfortable bedding for the embryo to attach and grow. The unformed foetus attaches to the endometrial wall of the uterus and anchors itself for further growth and development. In women who have undergone hysterectomy, this uterus is unavailable for the embryo to anchor. Therefore, the answer to the question, ‘can you get pregnant after a hysterectomy’ is a simple no.
What Are the Chances of Pregnancy After Hysterectomy?
After a hysterectomy, if a woman is in her fertile period of life, there are chances for the formation of an embryo. However, due to the lack of uterus, the embryo sometimes attaches and grows in the fallopian tube. This type of pregnancy is termed as ectopic pregnancy and is a condition that requires immediate medical attention. The fallopian tube is a very narrow passage and therefore does not have enough space for the developing foetus. This can lead to the rupture of the tube and also a heavy blood loss. An ectopic pregnancy is not a normal pregnancy and it does not result in the formation of a healthy baby. As soon as it is detected, it is terminated.
With advances in medical sciences today, a couple can still have a baby after undergoing a hysterectomy. Delegating the crucial step of growth and development of the embryo inside the womb to surrogacy can help an issueless couple have a baby. When a woman is preparing to undergo the surgery, the doctor usually harvests the egg for freezing and using later. If the ovaries are left intact, then the egg is harvested as and when required for fertilization. The fertilized egg is introduced into the uterus of the surrogate mother, for attachment and growth.
Pregnancy Symptoms After Hysterectomy
There is a very small chance of an ectopic pregnancy after hysterectomy. An ectopic pregnancy that occurs in women after a uterus removal surgery, can be quite damaging to their reproductive health. Understanding the symptoms and detecting it as early as possible is very crucial for protecting from any permanent damage. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of a tubal pregnancy.
- Cramping pain in the abdomen, particularly on one side.
- Bleeding or spotting from the vagina all of a sudden.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and fatigue
- Pain in the neck, shoulder or rectum
Ectopic Pregnancy After Hysterectomy
Ectopic pregnancy is only possible in women who have only their uterus removed. The ovaries and fallopian tube are crucial for the formation of the egg and the subsequent fertilization. In some cases, the tube from one side of the body is removed. In such cases also, an ectopic pregnancy is possible, as one tube is sufficient for the process of ovulation. In this partial hysterectomy pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches itself not just in the fallopian tube, but also travels and anchors in the walls of the abdomen, bladder, bowels or sometimes even in the liver. As the embryo receives blood supply, it grows in size and breaks open the walls of the organ to which it attaches. This results in rupture and blood loss, which can become very dangerous for the patient.
In some cases, an ectopic pregnancy is possible immediately after the surgery, if it is performed during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. In some rare situations, the egg gets fertilized at the time of the surgery and due to lack of uterine surface for anchoring, it attaches itself elsewhere. An ectopic pregnancy, unlike a normal pregnancy, does not result in a healthy baby.
How to Diagnose and Treat Ectopic Pregnancy Post Hysterectomy
The occurrence of an ectopic pregnancy after hysterectomy is very rare, making the diagnosis of it very challenging. Usually, women who undergo the surgery assume that they do not stand a chance of becoming pregnant. Therefore, they tend to ignore the symptoms of a tubular pregnancy in the initial stages. An ectopic pregnancy that occurs as a result of the presence of a fertilized egg in the body at the time of the surgery, triggers an abdominal pain after hysterectomy. This is usually mistaken as post-operative pain and ignored.The abdominal pain and bleeding that usually accompanies an ectopic pregnancy should be taken seriously and brought to the notice of the doctor. The doctor usually performs a simple ultrasound scan or pelvic examination of the lower abdomen or other plausible locations of embryo implantation can easily detect the condition.
An emergency surgery is usually done to remove the embryo, especially in the abdominal pregnancy after hysterectomy. Based on the extent of damage, the treatment can vary from medications to surgical removal of the organs. Early detection of the ectopic pregnancy, greatly reduced the extent of the damage.
Hysterectomy is a very crucial surgery that impacts the lives of the woman greatly. A good awareness about the postoperative lifestyle, possibility and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy and the other external contraceptive methods can go a long way in maintaining good reproductive health after the surgery.
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