The lived experience of hysterectomy: A phenomenologic study
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand and describe the recovery experiences of women who underwent a hysterectomy. A purposive sample of 65 women was interviewed 1 week, 8 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year after surgery. Demographic data was gathered in the hospital, and semi-structured interviews were conducted by telephone at each data collection point. Responses were written verbatim, and later transcribed. Analysis used van Kaam's methodology to derive common elements and concepts.
Four common elements were identified as physical symptoms, emotional well-being, activity levels, and decision-making. The elements changed over time and provided a description of recovery after hysterectomy. The four phases of recovery were: measuring healing, comparing past to present, renewal, and growth through healing. A central unifying theme was identified as "From Hysterectomy to Historicity".
Physical symptoms were the main concern in measuring healing. The women had labile emotions, and were not pleased with restrictions on activity. The women were unsure about the decision to have surgery as they continued to have adverse symptoms.
At eight weeks, the women compared the past to present to evaluate well-being. The women compared symptoms prior to surgery to their present status, and secondly, compared how they felt shortly after surgery to the present. For both comparisons, the women described feeling better, both physically and emotionally. Energy levels had returned to normal as activity resumed, and the women were pleased they had decided to undergo surgery.
By six months, the women felt renewed. Physical healing had occurred and activity levels were greater than before surgery. Emotional issues were improved, and many described having a better quality of life. The decision for surgery had been internalized.
Growth through healing occurred by one year after the hysterectomy. Self esteem and confidence had grown after dealing effectively with the decision for surgery and recovery afterwards. Women described being more compassionate, more independent, more interested in others, and having new purpose in life. Women incorporated the hysterectomy into their total life experiences. The hysterectomy was no longer a central focus, merely a part of their history.