Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the womb (body of uterus and cervix). The operation may be with or without the removal of the ovaries.
The uterus is a muscular organ of the female body, shaped like an upside-down pear. The lining of the uterus (the endometrium), thickens and after ovulation is ready to receive a fertilised ovum (egg). If the ovum is unfertilised, the lining comes away as bleeding. This is known as menstruation (period). If the ovum is fertilised, the developing baby is nurtured inside the uterus throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
Once a woman has had a hysterectomy, she will no longer have menstrual periods and cannot have a child. She no longer needs to use contraception.
Hysterectomy is used to treat a number of conditions, such as excessive menstrual bleeding. Every year in Australia, around 30,000 women have a hysterectomy. Some people are concerned that more hysterectomies are performed than are necessary.