Advanced Therapies For Overactive Bladder

Advanced Therapies For Overactive Bladder (OAB)

All month long we’ve been talking about ways to treat Overactive Bladder – that urgent need to go to the bathroom many times per day (and sometimes night!).  If you have OAB, you may have tried switching up your diet, adding in pelvic floor exercises, or even trying different types of medications to treat your symptoms. But if those didn’t work (they don’t for everyone) or if the side effects made them difficult to continue, you may want to try some advanced therapies.

What are advanced therapies for OAB?

Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation

This treatment stimulates the nerve responsible for bladder and pelvic floor function by placing an acupuncture-like needle in the skin near your ankle. During treatment, a device sends mini electrical pulses to the tibial nerve, which changes the activity of the bladder. This is a gradual procedure and must be performed weekly for 12 weeks, and then occasionally as determined by a doctor.  

Sacral neuromodulation

Sacral neuromodulation (SNM) is a procedure that is performed in your doctor’s office and modulates the nerve activity between the brain and the bladder through electric stimulation of the sacral nerve. The sacral nerve delivers signals between the brain and the bladder.  SNM helps to control these signals, so that the bladder functions normally. 

SNM involves 2 phases – an evaluation phase and an implantation phase.  During the evaluation phase, which lasts around 2 weeks and is designed to see if SNM will be a beneficial option to you, a thin, temporary wire is inserted in your lower back, near the sacral nerves, which control the bladder.  A device is connected to the wire, which delivers electric stimulation to the sacral nerves.

Once your doctor has determined that SNM will be effective for you, the wire used during the evaluation period will be removed and a more permanent device, similar to a pacemaker is implanted just under the skin, usually in the buttocks.  Your doctor will monitor you over time, but in most cases, it has shown to be effective in patients for as many as five years.

Both of these options are effective ways to treat Overactive Bladder, if behavioral therapies or medications are not an option for you. 

To learn more about advanced therapies to treat Overactive Bladder, watch our 4th video below from our new series on Managing Overactive Bladder.  Then talk to your doctor to see if an advanced treatment is right for you.

What Is IBS?

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

We’ve all experienced bowel trouble at one time or another. But for some people, cramping, excess gas and loose stools (or not so loose stools) are all too common of an occurrence. If you suffer from these symptoms, you may have a condition called IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder and is not the same as IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), which is a more serious condition and can cause more severe complications.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF IBS

  • Abdominal pain or cramping (this goes away once you have a bowel movement)
  • Excess gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea, or constipation (sometimes people with IBS experience both)
  • Changes in stool consistency or frequency
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Loss of appetite

CAUSES AND TRIGGERS OF IBS

It’s not completely clear what causes IBS, sometimes referred to as spastic colon, but many experts believe that people with IBS simply have a more sensitive colon.  Things such as changes in your gut bacteria could have a greater effect on you than on others. Some experts also believe that the condition is a result of problems with brain-gut interaction, or how your brain and gut communicate with each other.

And, just like other conditions, such as overactive bladder, IBS has it’s own triggers.

While everyone’s trigger might be different, there are some common ones:

FOODS IN YOUR DIET:

Depending on your symptoms, different foods may be causing you problems. If you suffer from constipation, some foods, such as breads and cereals, processed foods, high-protein diets, and dairy products (especially cheese) can contribute to you symptoms. If you’re making more trips to the bathroom because of diarrhea, things like too much fiber, large meals, fried and fatty foods, and dairy products can be a problem. And for either symptom, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, or carbonated beverages.

HOW YOU EAT

It’s not just what you’re putting in your body that can have an effect on you, but how you eat can also impact your IBS symptoms. Eating too fast, or with distractions (like eating while you work or drive) can increase symptoms of IBS. Make sure to eat slowly and without disruptions.

STRESS AND ANXIETY

Stressful life events, or even certain mental conditions such as depression, can bring on symptoms of IBS.  Learning ways to stay calm and manage stress can be helpful tools in managing IBS symptoms.

HORMONAL CHANGES:           

Many women with IBS often experience an increase in symptoms around their menstrual cycle (in fact, 70% of people who live with IBS are women). While you can’t prevent your menstrual cycle from happening, it may help to find ways to better manage your symptoms. Birth control pills can sometimes lessen the effects of your periods, which may also help with IBS symptoms.

NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE:

Simply put, exercise can keep things moving if you’re suffering from bouts of constipation. And, as a widely known way of banishing stress, it’s helpful in keeping you calm and stress free, which can eliminate another trigger of IBS symptoms.

RISK FACTORS FOR IBS

IBS is a common disorder affecting up to 20% of US adults. IBS is not an old person’s condition either – it strikes young, often occurring in people before turning 35). The majority of sufferers are female (70%).  While not proven to be hereditary, people who have had family members with IBS may be at a greater risk for developing the condition themselves. 

DIAGNOSING IBS

Diagnosis for IBS is typically done at a doctor’s office through blood tests. If you suspect you have IBS, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms, and get tested for a diagnosis.

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR IBS

COUNSELING

If you suffer from a lot of anxiety, or have experienced a traumatic event, speaking with a counselor can help you work through some of those feelings and may help ease your IBS symptoms in the process.

DIET CHANGES

Making some changes to what you eat can have a big effect for some people experiencing IBS symptoms. Try eliminating some of the problem foods listed above to see if you experience any relief.

BIOFEEDBACK

This technique involves training your body to have more control over your bowels, and has been proven an effective tool in managing IBS symptoms. Learn more about biofeedback here.

MINDFULNESS

Practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to result in a reduction of IBS symptoms. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and has been thought to reduce stress and calm the mind. 

MEDICATIONS

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help you manage. Fiber supplements or anti-diarrheal medications can help manage constipation and diarrhea, and antidepressant medications may help you manage symptoms of stress and anxiety, which are common triggers of IBS. There are also medications specifically approved by the FDA to treat certain symptoms of IBS.

IBS can be a very painful and debilitating condition for some people, and while it is not life-threatening, it is a long term condition that should be treated. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and work with him or her to find a treatment option that works for you.

What I've Learned About IBS And How To Treat It.

IBS, Bowel Health, And How To Treat It

IBS, Bowel Health, And How To Treat It

I was fairly young when I first started having bowel trouble. A consistently nervous young woman, I was constantly in a state of worry – about school, boys, and friendships – pretty much the normal run of the mill high school concerns. My mother always said I had “nervous bowels”, and my family became accustomed to stopping frequently to use the restroom on trips, and always asking me if I had to go before leaving the house.  The pain I felt sometimes with bloating or cramping was attributed to my nerves.  And while my family was fairly sympathetic to my condition, I experienced a lot of eye-rolling growing up when my symptoms would strike (“We have to stop for Annette again?” my brother would say. “She just went!”) It was a normal occurrence that lasted into my college years, and then later as I started a family.  And while it was inconvenient and could definitely be painful at times – it wasn’t until after the birth of my first child that I thought about it as a “condition” that could actually be treated. 

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is when you have an overly sensitive colon or large intestine.  This may result in the contents of your bowel moving too quickly, resulting in diarrhea, or too slowly, resulting in constipation. (Both of which I have experienced, although my symptoms tend to lie more in the former camp, causing me to constantly race to the bathroom for fear of an accident).  Symptoms also can include cramping or abdominal pain, bloating, gas, or mucus in the stool. The condition is more common than you may think. As many as 1 in 5 American adults have IBS, the majority of them being women. And, this is not an old persons disease either – IBS strikes young, commonly in ages younger than 45.

I was finally diagnosed at age 28 – a whopping 13 years after I started experiencing symptoms, and I wish I had thought to seek help earlier.  My doctor told me that there are many things that can contribute to IBS. Things like hormones, certain types of food, and stress (I guess my mother was right) may all impact IBS symptoms.  Since the cause is of IBS is not known, treatments usually focus on relieving symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible. 

Below is a list of treatments my doctor discussed with me.

Behavioral Changes: 

Diet.  Many foods can trigger IBS. And, while they might not be the same for everyone, there are some common triggers that have been identified:

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine (including coffee, chocolate)

  • Dairy products

  • Sugar-free sweeteners

  • High-gas foods, such as beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, raw fruits or carbonated beverages)

  • Fatty foods

  • FODMAPs (types of carbohydrates that are found in certain grans, vegetables fruits and dairy products)

  • Gluten

One of the first things I did when starting treatment was to keep a bowel diary, which tracked the foods I ate and how they effected me. This was a huge help in learning my food triggers.  I also learned to eat more frequent, smaller meals, which helped ease my symptoms. (Although those who experience more constipation may see improvement by eating larger amounts of high-fiber foods.)

Stress Management. This was a huge one for me.  It turns out, your brain controls your bowels, so if you’re a hand wringer like me, it may end up making you run to the bathroom more often than you’d like.  Learning ways to control stress was a game changer and I saw a huge improvement with these steps:

  • Meditation – Just taking the time to quite your mind can do wonders in helping you manage stress on a regular basis.

  • Physical Exercise – Regular exercise is a great de-stressor and, if you have constipation, can help keep things moving in that department too. I walk regularly and practice yoga 3 times per week to keep my stress at bay.

  • Deep Breathing Exercises – This is a great trick to practice if you feel yourself starting to get worked up. Practice counting to 10, while breathing in and out slowly until you start feeling relaxed.

  • Counseling – Sometimes you need someone to talk to help you work through your emotions. You may find comfort in talking with a friend or family member, or even a professional counselor, who can help you learn how to deal better with stress.

  • Massage – This one likely doesn’t need much explanation - who doesn’t love a good massage?

Drink Plenty Of Water. Drinking enough water just helps your body function better. And for people with IBS, it will ensure that everything moves more smoothly and minimize pain. This is especially true with those who suffer from constipation. 

Medications 

There are several different medications used to treat symptoms of IBS. Whether you suffer from constipation, or diarrhea, OTCs and prescriptions are available. Antibiotics are also sometimes prescribed for those patients whose symptoms are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. And if you suffer from anxiety or depression, like me, some antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents can actually improve your IBS symptoms too. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and work with him or her to find a solution that’s best for you.

Other treatment options 

Acupuncture. Despite a lack of data on acupuncture and IBS, many patients turn to this method of treatment for pain and bloating. Acupuncture, which is usually performed by a licensed acupuncturist, targets specific points in the body to help channel energy flow properly.

Probiotics.  As research continues to emerge around the importance of gut bacteria and your overall health, probiotics may become a more common treatment option.  Consuming them can increase the “good” bacteria that live in your intestines and may help ease your symptoms. 

Hypnosis.  Hypnotherapy has been shown to improve symptoms by helping the patient to relax. Patients practicing hypnotherapy have reported improved quality of life, reduced abdominal pain and constipation, and reduced bloating. However, most of the time hypnotherapy is dependent upon a therapist, and is usually not covered by insurance plans, making it a costly form of therapy.

I’m 37 now and have had my IBS pretty much under control for the last several years. Looking back, I can’t believe I lived with it as “normal” for so long. If you suffer from this condition, there is simply no reason to not get it treated. 

Need help finding a doctor?  Use the NAFC Specialist Locator.

About the Author:  Annette Jennings lives in Oklahoma with her husband, 2 children, 2 dogs, and 1 cat. She's happy to be speaking up about her condition and hopes it will inspire more people to do so. 

Depression And Incontinence

Depression And Incontinence World Health Day

Do you suffer from urinary incontinence? If you do, you are one of over 35 million Americans that live with the condition every day. Incontinence can be a mild inconvenience, or it can be a completely devastating condition that greatly restricts a person’s life. While there are many treatments that exist for incontinence, the condition holds a strong stigma and sense of extreme embarrassment and shame for those who live with it on a daily basis, which prevents them from discussing it with anyone – even their doctor.

When someone has severe incontinence, they are in constant fear of having an embarrassing accident.  Not making it to the restroom on time is always a concern and they seek out ways to ensure that they are always near a bathroom.  This can greatly restrict how much they are willing to travel from their home – even for work.  As a person becomes more and more reclusive due to their condition, they may suffer from anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Their relationships with friends, family, and work can all suffer. 

This is unfortunate since there are so many treatment options available to men and women these days. Behavioral modifications, medications, advanced therapies or surgeries can all be used to treat urinary incontinence effective.  There truly are some great tools available.

If you suffer from urinary incontinence, or depression, don’t continue to let it control your life. 

Here are some steps you can take to treat your depression. 

Talk to your doctor

This is really the first step. While it can be hard to open up about something so personal, doing so will put you on the path to recovery – for both incontinence and depression. 

Lose Weight

If you are carrying around a few extra pounds, it’s worth the effort to shed them, since the added weight can contribute to stress urinary incontinence, as well as weak pelvic floor muscles. 

Exercise  

Getting regular exercise is always a great idea. But, for urinary incontinence and depression it can have a doubly good effect.  Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can give you greater control over urinary incontinence. Your pelvic muscles benefit from all types of exercises but working with a trained physical therapist can really help you to focus on them with specific moves and postural tips.  And, most exercises produce a chemical called endorphins, which can produce a positive feeling in the body. In fact, regular exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression. And it doesn’t take much – just 30 minutes of an exercise like walking (or really, anything that you enjoy) 3-5 times a week can do the trick.

Look into medical treatment

There are medications that exist for both urinary incontinence and depression. Your doctor can talk with you about the different types available and work with you to find one that’s right for you. Additionally, advanced procedures like sacral neuromodulation, which uses mild electrical pulses to stimulate your sacral nerves, or Botox injections into the bladder, which can help to strengthen bladder control, may be an option for you.  There are also various surgical procedures that can be very effective in treating urinary incontinence.

Regardless of which outcome you choose, the most important thing to do is to take some sort of action. Life doesn’t have to be limited by incontinence and with the myriad of treatment options available there is no reason that it should be a source of depression.  Don’t let leaks rule your life!  Take control and get help today.

NAFC is proud to support the efforts of the World Health Organization today during World Health Day, 2017, which is focused on raising awareness of depression. If you or a loved one suffers from depression, talking about it can be a first step towards recovery.  Learn more about the 2017 World Health Day at www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2017/en/

Incontinence and Autism - A Treatment Guide

Incontinence and Autism
Incontinence and Autism

Incontinence is a condition that affects over 35 million Americans of all ages.  Dealing with incontinence can be difficult at any age, but helping a child with a disability, like autism, learn to manage incontinence can be especially challenging. 

As a child, learning to use the bathroom is a normal part of development. And even in children who don’t have a physical, mental or emotional disability, the rate at which they develop this skill varies greatly.  However, for some children with autism, other factors can play a part in how they learn to use the toilet.  Autism is a spectrum disorder brought on by a dysfunction of the central nervous system. It is usually diagnosed in the first three years of life. Children with autism experience impairment of common social skills (making eye contact, interacting with other people or reading social cues), communication difficulties (delayed language development or complete lack of speech), and behavioral challenges (sterotyped and repetitive body movements, extreme attachment to routines, unusually intense or focused interests, and sensory sensitivities to environments including sounds, light, smells and textures.

When looking at these characteristics of autism, it’s easy to understand how some children with autism may have challenges when potty training or learning to remain continent.

Using The 5 Ps.

 Incontinence may come in many forms, but there are some common ways to approach the situation. We call them ‘The 5 Ps,’ and they can help make treatment more tolerable for caregivers and contribute to a real opportunity for improvement:

Patience  

We all know that patience is a virtue, but when it comes to incontinence, it’s often a virtue that’s hard to find. Try not to place blame for setbacks. Instead, provide positive encouragement and do your best to maintain a good sense of humor – it’ll pay off in so many ways.

Persistence

Progress may be slow, but don’t give up. Having a positive outlook and setting sensible goals can reduce frustration for everyone.

Planning  

Incontinence is all about surprises, and they’re usually not pleasant ones! Take the time to schedule activities – even simple ones that you do around the house – and make sure to stick to that schedule. Communications planning is just as important – make sure that teachers, caregivers and anyone else who shares responsibility for the child knows what they need to know about the child’s situation and is able to take appropriate action if needed.

Practice

You never know what will work until you’ve tried it – and in most cases, that means trying and trying again. Test out different treatments, ask healthcare professionals for recommendations and see for yourself if there are certain products or programs that work for you.

Progress Is Possible

It may not always feel like you’re getting somewhere, but there are thousands and thousands of families who can tell you firsthand that the effort you make today really can turn into results down the road. It may not always be realistic to expect a cure, but there are things you can do – tactics, treatments and products – that can make your loved one much more comfortable and your life much easier.

It’s important to note that many children with autism have no problems with incontinence, and for those that do the severity of their condition can vary greatly. In addition, many children continue to develop over time and can improve their condition with the proper help and instruction from a caregiver. 

For more help on addressing incontinence in children with disabilities, download our brochure, Incontinence Support For Children With Disabilities.

Watch This Video Of How Botox Helped A Woman With MS Battle Neurogenic Bladder

If you're reading this article, you, or someone you know, have likely dealt with some form of incontinence before. It's a common occurrence (more common than most think!), and can be a source of daily annoyance, shame and fear in our lives. 

For those living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), bladder dysfunction is often present and can greatly affect the quality of one's life. Symptoms such as hesitation, interrupted or weak flow, incomplete emptying, incontinence, frequency, and pain are reported by many who suffer from MS.  However, there is hope.  Many treatments are available to those living with this condition.  Watch the videos below to see how Amy, an MS sufferer, bravely describes her struggles with neurogenic bladder, and her amazing transformation after she started treating it with Botox. 

Amy's Before Video

Amy's After Video

Struggling With Overactive Bladder? Know Your Options!

A Guest Blog By Dr. Harriette Scarpero, M.D.

It’s estimated that over 37 million Americans live with Overactive Bladder 1,2 – the urgent and frequent need to use the restroom. And yet, many people don’t receive the proper treatment they should. Part of this is due to one’s own embarrassment – no one likes to discuss the inability to control their bladder with anyone, even their doctor. In fact, in a recent NAFC survey of OAB patients, 74% said they waited longer than they should have to seek treatment3. And, while OAB has many treatment options, many of those people who didn’t seek treatment (26%) said they didn’t know about the treatment options available to them3. Sadly, of those who did seek treatment, only 20% were extremely satisfied with their current treatment3.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a roadmap for those living with OAB to know what their options are? Luckily, there is. It’s called a patient Care Pathway, and it helps you to know your treatment choices, usually ranging from conservative to more advanced treatments. A Care Pathway shows possible treatment options, and helps you make informed decisions. With OAB, a Care Pathway is a great tool for both patients and physicians to use to find a treatment that works and the patient is comfortable with. The new OAB Care Pathway, sponsored by Medtronic, does just that. This Care Pathway is based on the clinical guidelines for OAB from the American Urological Association (AUA) and the Society of Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine & Urogenital Reconstruction (SUFU).

Here’s a quick breakdown of how to use a Care Pathway:

  1. Your first step is to speak with a physician about your symptoms. As with most treatments, starting with a conservative approach is best.
  2. Once your physician determines your condition, they may have you try various lifestyle changes such as improving diet and exercise, or working to strengthen your pelvic floor in addition to using protective absorbent products if leakage is a problem.
  3. If lifestyle changes don’t work, oral medications are a common next step. These medications can help, and are a mainstay of therapy when behavioral and lifestyle changes prove ineffective. Some patients do experience side effects with medications, which may be difficult to handle. In fact, studies have shown that many patients with OAB do not stay on medications long term – only 28% of patients remained on medications after 6 months in one study4. Unfortunately, all too many patients think this is their last option and many do not see a physician again. This is where a Care Pathway can really help a patient and physician who aren’t sure what to try next.
  4. Advanced therapies can play a big role in the treatment of OAB, and are a good option to explore if medications haven’t worked for you. Sacral Neuromodulation is thought to target the nerves that are responsible for bladder function. Additionally, injected medications (Botox) block the signals that trigger OAB by calming the nerves and bladder muscle. Both of these may be treatments your doctor discusses with you after trying oral medication.
  5. Finally, if advanced therapies don’t work, a patient can look to surgical procedures that may help.

More education around the treatment options available can help you not only in finding a new solution that you may not have known about, but may also help you to get to a better place faster. If you’re suffering from symptoms of Overactive Bladder, study the OAB Care Pathway below, print it out, and walk through it with your doctor.

About The Author:  Dr. Harriette Scarpero is a board certified fellowship trained urologist and nationally recognized expert in female pelvic health and reconstruction (FPM/RS). She specializes in the urologic care of women.Dr. Scarpero received her B.A. in English from the University of the South in 1989.  She graduated from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA and completed her General Surgery Internship and Urology Residency at LSU Medical Center. She served as Chief Resident at LSU/Ochsner from 1999-2001.Before joining Associated Urologists, she was Associate Professor of Urologic Surgery at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a member of the Vanderbilt Academy of Excellence in Teaching. There her practice addressed complex reoperative cases as well as general female urologic cases.  She has helped train students, residents and fellows in FPM/RS for eight years and considers educating women about their urologic health to be an important component of the patient care she provides.As an expert in her field, Dr. Scarpero is active on many national urologic boards. She is a past president of The Society of Women in Urology, on the executive committee of The Society of Urodynamics and Female Urology, and participates on several committees for The American Urologic Association.Dr. Scarpero has published extensively in the areas of incontinence, urodynamics, and pelvic reconstruction, and she has been an invited lecturer at specialty meetings around the country. 

1. Stewart WF, et al. Prevalence and burden of overactive bladder in the United States. World J Urol. 2003 May;20(6):327-336. 2. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011). World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision, CD-ROM Edition. 3. Leede Research, “Views on OAB: A Study for the National Association of Continence.” December 16, 2015. 4. Yeaw J, Benner J, Walt JG et al Comparing adherence and persistence across 6 chronic medication classes. J Manag Care Pharm. 2009:15(9): 724-736

Ask The Expert: Botox for OAB

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: I’ve heard that Botox can help with OAB – is this true?  I thought Botox was used for wrinkles!

Answer: Yes! Besides being used to treat wrinkles, Botox has also been approved to treat Overactive Bladder symptoms, such as the strong need to urinate, urgency, urgency incontinence, and frequency of using the bathroom.  When you have OAB, your bladder muscles contract uncontrollably and you feel the frequent need to empty your bladder.  Botox works by blocking the signals that trigger OAB, and is administered with a small tube (cystoscope) that is inserted through the urethra. BOTOX goes through a small needle into multiple areas of your bladder muscle. Treatments take only about an hour in your doctor’s office and may be needed as few as 1-2 times per year.  Botox can provide significant relief to patients suffering from OAB by reducing many of the symptoms normally experienced, including leakage.  BOTOX should be administered by a trained specialist such as a Urologist or Urogynecologist.  To find a specialist  near you, visit the NAFC Specialist Locator.

The NAFC Expert Panel is made up of some of the top medical professionals in the fields of urology, urogynecology, physical therapy, and surgery. Each month, the experts weigh in on important topics and answers to your questions.  To have one of your questions featured in our Ask an Expert series, send it to us here.

What To Expect With A Hysterectomy

What to expect with a hysterectomy 

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure done to remove a woman’s uterus. There are several potential reasons a woman may need a hysterectomy:

  • Uterine Fibroids that cause bleeding, pain and other problems
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Chronic pelvic pains
  • Endometriosis
  • Cancer of uterus, ovaries or cervix

This operation is either done to remove the part or the entire uterus after going through a rigorous and thorough checkup. In United States, 1 out of 3 women have gone through hysterectomy by the age they are 60.  It is the second most common surgery in women, followed only by cesarean delivery.  The majority of this operation is done to treat noncancerous conditions in women.

Even though a hysterectomy is a fairly safe surgery, there are certain side effects associated with it. Some of these include problems related to anesthesia, infection, bleeding, blood clots, injury to internal organs and loss of ovarian functions, which means no menstruation. Some women also experience less interest in sex, which can be treated with hormone therapy. And, if this surgery is done before a woman reaches menopause, she may experience menopausal type symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.

A common side effect of having a hysterectomy is incontinence. After the surgery, nerves of the bladder may be damaged because of their nearness to uterus. This can cause stress incontinence, the involuntary release of urine during things like exercise, sexual activity, sneezing or coughing – all of which put increased pressure on the abdomen. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available, so if you have incontinence as a result of a hysterectomy, talk to your doctor about what you can do.  Physical therapy, medication, and in extreme cases, even surgery can be used to treat the problem.

While many women are happy to be relieved of the symptoms they experienced prior to a hysterectomy, the changes to a woman’s body after surgery can be drastic. A full recovery after hysterectomy generally takes 6-8 weeks, after which it is advised to start doing regular activities with caution. The body may need additional time to adjust to changes in hormone levels. 

Even though this is a common surgery, having a hysterectomy is a major decision for most women. There are several procedures commonly used for hysterectomy like abdominal, vaginal or laparoscopic. Your doctor will be able to walk you through the pros and cons of each option, and help you decide on what is best for you. Visit the NAFC Specialist Locator to find a specialist in your area.