Recent Blog Articles

In Brief: Hysterectomy doesn't harm - and may help - sexual function

In Brief

Hysterectomy doesn't harm — and may help — sexual function

Every year, an estimated 600,000 women in the United States have hysterectomies, mostly for noncancerous conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), fibroids, and endometriosis. Hysterectomy removes either the entire uterus or the uterus above the cervix. The ovaries may also be removed (oophorectomy), as a hedge against ovarian cancer. Any type of hysterectomy means the end of menstrual periods and childbearing, and removal of the ovaries results in menopause and the loss of ovarian estrogens and androgens. The surgery can be performed abdominally, vaginally, or laparoscopically.

Before considering hysterectomy, women often seek alternatives, such as drug therapy. Surgical risk is always a concern — and so, too, may be the psychological and medical ramifications of losing the uterus and, possibly, the ovaries. One further worry is that hysterectomy may have a negative impact on sexual function. That idea derives, in part, from studies conducted in the 1960s by sexuality researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who suggested that the uterus plays a role in orgasm. But solid evidence for a physiological relationship between hysterectomy and decreased sexual function is lacking. In 2000, a review of 18 studies of post-hysterectomy sexual function found that most women reported either no change or improved sexual functioning (Obstetrics and Gynecology, June 2000), although most of the studies were deemed poorly designed.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.