My GYN recommended a hysterectomy

Long time lurker with a question. My doctors recommended I get a hysterectomy. I’ve put it off for 10+ years, but now I’m wondering how much longer I should continue to do so. In my case I don’t think it would be sinful, but I wonder.

Background: I am a 55 year old woman who has not yet gone through menopause. I know I’m not the oldest woman to go through menopause, but I don’t know anyone older than me who is still having periods. I have lingering problems caused by childbirth (with massive episiotomy and tearing) that, although not painful, have caused continual embarrassment. These include a large hernia in my rectum, significant weakening of my bladder muscles, and uterine prolapse that puts severe strain on these every time I cough or sneeze. Because of the uterine prolapse, both my GYN and urologist agree that the only way to surgically correct the bladder and rectal problems are to get a hysterectomy. Otherwise the first time I coughed after surgery the prolapse would tear the stitches out.

My problems are not painful, fortunately, but they are messy and embarrassing. For years now I’ve told the doctors that I’ll get the hysterectomy done and the other problems corrected when I’ve been through menopause and my reproductive organs have dried up on their own. Now I’m starting to reconsider continuing to wait.

More background: My husband and I have three grown children. My husband is impotent and we haven’t had sex for over eight years. (That’s a separate problem he has to deal with, but refuses.) Point is that there is pretty much zero chance we’ll be able to have any more children.

Even though I am still fertile, (at least I think I am), my periods are getting irregular, and when they do arrive it’s with a vengeance. As in, spend half of the day in the bathroom and the other half of the day doing laundry kind of vengeance. Today, while closing out another episode of dealing with Niagara Falls and with the washing machine still spinning, I’m wondering how much longer I should put this off.

Would I be committing some kind of sin by having the procedures done now, while I am still technically capable of bearing a child?

You should not put this off any longer.
Please listen to your doctors, get a 2nd opinion if you desire, but do not let anyone convince you that this would be a “sin”.

A hysterectomy to “correct the bladder and rectal problems” is in no way sinful. A hysterectomy is only potentially sinful if it is done to prevent further pregnancy.

Here is the way I see it:
The Church has spoken clearly, that it is not sinful to have a procedure done for a medically necessary reason, even if it renders you infertile, as long as the infertility is a SECONDARY effect and not the intended purpose of the procedure. Therefore, if you have a medical reason that requires a hysterectomy, you are morally allowed to have one, even though you haven’t reached menopause yet.

The possible grey area in your situation is whether or not the procedure is a medical necessity. That is between you and your doctor of course, but it does seem as though there is some leeway there. Without medical knowledge of my own to judge, your wording gives me the impression that your condition is pretty difficult to live with, but that your doctor sees the hysterectomy is not quite “necessary” at this point. Now how necessary does something need to be to justify a procedure that could affect fertility? I don’t think there is an exact line that can be drawn, and this is where you combine the advice of a doctor and that of a trusted priest, if you are not certain.

Now 20 years ago, presumably you were more likely to get pregnant, and if you were encountering the suggestion of a useful, but not necessary hysterectomy at that time in your life, I would say that consultation with a trusted priest would be very helpful. But because your husband’s condition means you aren’t in a position to conceive anyway, I would be less worried about what little grey area there is. For this reason, I wouldn’t have any moral qualms about the procedure, if I were in your situation, and for me, this would purely be a medical question. Not that consultation with a trusted priest couldn’t still be helpful, but because of your and your dh’s particular situations, I don’t see all that much grey.

The others are correct. You would be undergoing a procedure with the intent of correcting a medical problem, not with the intent of sterilizing yourself. That would be the unintended side-effect.

If you have doubts as to whether or not your medical condition is “serious enough” to accept this unintended side effect, you can always ask your priest about it. He should be able to sort through it with you if necessary.

EDIT: By the way, welcome to the “other side” of lurking. :wave: :slight_smile:

My dear lady, you have been living with this so long. You are very brave to manage such a stressful condition for 10 years. I don’t think anyone would deny you have a medical need. Please take care of yourself! I’ll be praying for you.

This would not be a sin. A surgery like this might help you feel better than you have in years and is certainly indicated from what you say. Go for it, and good luck.

The surgery is your choice, but there is not a reason rooted in medical ethics that forbids it. This is a serious surgery not being done for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy. It would be a morally permissible choice if you were 25, because it is necessary to repair other failing organs.

If you have concerns, I would suggest one of several of the following:

  1. ask a Catholic GYN for a 2nd opinion (you can check out a local Catholic Hospital or cathmed.org/physician_directory/)

  2. contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center at ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1174 and/or at 215-877-2660. They give free consultations.

  3. talk to a holy priest

I think option 2 might be the best if you only do one.

Please let your Dr.know about the intensity of your periods as they may signify and additional problem other that that discussed in your posts.
A discussion with you priest may help you work your way through your questions about your hysterectomy.

May God bless you.
jt

I had an hysterectomy in 2003, that was medically necessary. I was never told it was a sin because of that. Have the surgery and feel better. It’ll be hard, especially if you have your ovaries removed at the same time. That would lead to almost instant menopause. I had that, and felt relieved to be done with it.

That sounds awful! :frowning: I hope you can get everything fixed.

Thank you. And thank you everyone for chiming in. I didn’t feel like it would be sinful to have the hysterectomy, but we all know what feelings do to our judgment when we’re trying to rationalize our actions.

Anyway, I feel much better now about anticipating the surgery. :slight_smile: There’s a six week recovery period, so I’ll need to postpone scheduling it until I can get a break from work.

According to what I’ve learned, the irregular Niagara Falls periods are due to my entering perimenopause - the few years before I actually reach menopause - because my female hormones are getting imbalanced. Excess of estrogen, insufficient progesterone, everything builds up for a few months, then, well… watch out. It’s certainly unpleasant, but still normal. And the normal treatment for THAT is… Yep. Hormone supplements. Birth control pills.

One more thing to talk to the priest and the doctor about while I’m waiting to schedule the surgery.

Although in the totality of the circumstances, I think this is one of those times when the exception applies that Pope Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae, that the pills can be licitly prescribed if their purpose is to cure a medical condition and not to block fertility.

Anyway, thank you again, everyone. I not only feel better about what the doctor recommended, I also now have assurance that this time my feelings are not leading me astray.

Blessings to you for your advice.

Please do not put this off I had a complete hysterectemy 21 years ago when I was 28 years old that saved my life I had uterine ovarian cancer that was caught early.

Heavy bleeding can be more than peri-menopause-that’s where a Doctor’s wisdom can be so helpful.
:gopray:
May God bless you and all who struggle with these issues.
Amen.
jt

My mother, a very devout Catholic suffered a similar condition for over a decade. Her anemia, pain, stress and worry ended up causing her to function less as a mother, wife and employee. It was also extremely worrisome to the children and her husband to see her suffer and bleed this way.

Her dr had urged her to have the condition treated, and she refused.

She was not in any way shape of form going to have more children, and indeed her medical situation already precluded that, yet she refused hormonal treatment, intrauterine treatment, or surgical treatment.

By making that choice she denied her family, employer and even her Church the benefit of a healthy functioning member.

I wonder if this does not fall into the category of scrupulosity and pride on her part. A bit of being a martyr for a cause, while bringing suffering to those around her as a result of it.

She also refused to speak to her confessor or priest about it.

It was terrifying for me, as a child and teenager to see my mother go through this and think that was what it meant to be a good Catholic woman, and to have had children.

I do not presume I can make a spiritual call for anyone else, but wanted to share this experience.

In my late 40’s I too experienced the situation my mother and you describe. I could no longer walk, have relations with my husband, etc as the result of it.

The surgery allowed me to be a mother, grand mother and good employee again. No longer unable to do household tasks, babysit etc. I was no longer a burden to those who counted on me.

Don’t delay taking care of your health. God bless you.

You should definitely have the hysterectomy. My wife had similar problems. However, your husband should really do something about his problem too. Your procedure will eventually kill your sex drive. None of that is good. My wife, like your husband won’t do anything about her loss of sex drive. It remains the elephant in the room for us. You are too young to give up on being together. Eight years? How horrible. It’s been 2 years for us and it’s difficult for me. Do the surgery, but please take care of yourselves. There are a multitude of facets of love that make a marriage, and intimacy is one of them. I think it’s very important to try to hold onto that.

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