My gynecologist recommended I get a hysterectomy because my periods weren’t just irregular, I was spotting all the time. He said it’s a simple surgery and I’d feel much better afterward. So, I scheduled the surgery without even thinking, “should I get a hysterectomy?” I didn’t ask the gynecologist any questions — nor did I get a second opinion from another doctor.
In the weeks before the surgery, something kept nagging at me. I just didn’t feel right about getting a hysterectomy, even though the gynecologist has a great reputation as a surgeon. The only reason I was getting one was because my periods were spotty and irregular…was that really a good reason to get a hysterectomy? It’s a major surgery no matter how casually the gynecologist talked about it.
I also realized that I was in my early 40s and childless. My hormones were changing, my periods lighter and more sporadic. This is completely normal and natural for a woman nearing perimenopause. Ultimately I decided not to get the hysterectomy, and now I am so glad. A woman’s body is never the same after surgery; I know because I’ve had two major shoulder surgeries. Getting a hysterectomy doesn’t just change your body — the post-surgery recovery period takes so much energy and time.
Are you wondering if you should get a hysterectomy? Maybe you’re dealing with painful periods because of endometriosis and painful periods, or you’re almost always in pain because of ovarian or uterine problems. I don’t know if you should or shouldn’t get a hysterectomy, but I did find some really important questions to ask before you get any type of surgery.
These five questions to ask before you schedule a surgery (or any invasive medical procedure) are from an article called “Secrets of the Smartest Patients” by Dr Mehmet Oz in an old issue of O magazine. He recently wrote Food Can Fix It: The Superfood Switch to Fight Fat, Defy Aging, and Eat Your Way Healthy — which is an excellent resource for women who want to get healthy naturally.
5 Questions to Ask Before You Get a Hysterectomy
“Despite our best efforts, physicians do sometimes get it wrong,” says Dr Oz. “In fact, a recent study of more than 350,000 malpractice claims found that missed, incorrect and delayed diagnoses were the most dangerous mistakes doctors made, and they’re estimated to result in permanent injury or death for up to 160,000 Americans annually.”
Dr Oz says the best way to protect ourselves from medical mishaps, medication errors and unnecessary surgeries (like my hysterectomy) is to ask your doctor these questions.
1. Do you need to see the tests my other doctor ran?
Before you get a hysterectomy, ask the gynecologist if he or she needs to see your previous health tests, blood work, and other records. Call your previous doctor and ask for copies of your records. “These files contain much more than just your vitals; they include consent forms, physicians’ orders, test results, pathology reports, and immunization records,” says Dr Oz.
The information could help your gynecologist avoid doing repeat tests, spare you unnecessary discomfort and cost, and even re-evaluate the decision to have a hysterectomy. The gynecologist may see patterns or get information that makes having surgery unnecessary.
2. Do I have time to get a second opinion?
I actually think this should be the first question to ask before you get a hysterectomy. Looking back, I now realize how foolish it was to schedule a major surgery like a hysterectomy for something as natural as perimenopausal spotty periods. An irregular menstrual cycle is completely natural for a woman in her 40s, and a gynecologist should educate women about their declining hormones instead of jumping straight into a surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus.
“Stop worrying that you’ll offend your doctor,” says Dr Oz. “Smart physicians know that smart patients seek out other points of view before making major decisions. Begin your search for a second opinion by contacting local chapters of medical associations that specialize in your condition.” Look for an Association of Gynecologists or Women’s Health before you schedule a hysterectomy. If your first two gynecologists don’t agree (such as the first gynecologist advises you to get a hysterectomy and the second gynecologist recommends taking prescription medication or letting nature take its course), get a third opinion.
3. Can we discuss my questions about getting a hysterectomy today?
Dr Oz described a phenomenon called “white-coat silence.” Patients tend to clam up in the presence of doctors, especially specialists such as male gynecologists who are authoritatively recommending surgery. Personally, I feel overwhelmed in a doctor’s office. I’m not worried about being seen as difficult (which some female patients are); I just freeze.
You may have heard the advice to write down your questions before your gynecologist appointment — especially if you’ve already been advised to get a hysterectomy. Take it one step further and ask the doctor if he or she has time to discuss your questions today. Getting a hysterectomy may seem like no big deal to a surgeon who takes a dozen uteruses out of a dozen women a week…but this is a huge deal to you. Also, bring someone with you to your gynecologist appointment. Ask him or her to write down everything the doctor says (or record it!). This way you won’t miss or forget important information.
4. How will the hysterectomy affect my other health issues and medications?
Two-thirds of patient visits end with the doctor pulling out the prescription pad, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. It’s no wonder, then, that more than 10% of Americans are currently taking five or more medications! And almost all of us have or have had some sort of health condition or problem in the past.
“If you’re taking prescription medication, bring it with you to the gynecologist appointment,” says Dr Oz. “Just writing down the names of medications leaves too much room for error; one misspelled word or misplaced decimal point changes everything. Instead, gather up pill bottles (over-the-counter and supplements included) and show the gynecologist.” You might also take pictures of your pill bottles and prescriptions. Ask the gynecologist how the hysterectomy will affect your prescription medications, medical conditions, and future health.
5. Other than a hysterectomy, is there another option?
“Should I get a hysterectomy?” was the question I asked my gynecologist. It was the wrong question. He said yes; he’s a gynecological surgeon who specializes in removing uteruses and ovaries and other female parts! Of course he recommended getting hysterectomy after a 10 minute consultation and without running any tests on me.
“For many conditions, there are several alternatives for care, often ranging from the conservative (wait and see) to the aggressive (a surgery such as a hysterectomy),” says Dr Oz, author of Food Can Fix It: The Superfood Switch to Fight Fat, Defy Aging, and Eat Your Way Healthy. “Each approach comes with its own risks and benefits. But the recent research suggests that doctors don’t always do a good job of informing you of all your choices. And that can lead to preference misdiagnosis — when your doctor makes an assumption about which treatment you’ll want and, as a result, present you without only a narrow range of options.”
For example, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when women with abnormal menstrual bleeding were given information about treatment options and asked about their preferences, they were more than 20% less likely to choose a hysterectomy than those not asked about their preferences.
Get information about all possible treatments for an irregular menstrual cycle or spotty periods before getting a hysterectomy. And, remember that your body is changing! Learn what a normal period cycle is and remember that you won’t be dealing with irregular periods forever.
If you decide to get the hysterectomy, read 17 “Get Well Soon” Gift Ideas for After Surgery. These aren’t your typical post-surgery gifts; each one is designed to help with recovery and healing after a major surgery.
You might also want to read Prayers for Healing and Recovery for Patients After Surgery. Every prayer helps!