Monday 2 December 2019

My Experience of having a Hysteroscopy on the NHS

ceiling in a hospital
Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash

I suspect if you have ended up here that you've been told you'll need a hysteroscopy, well firstly I want to reassure you that on the three occasions I've had one, I have found it a really easy procedure to undergo. Of course every person is different and we all experience things in our own way, so you'll make your own decisions when you have the procedure yourself, but for now, I'll share my perspective and experience.

What is a Hysteroscopy and why have one?

A hysteroscope is a long thing telescope with a light and camera that will be passed though your vagina and cervix to see inside the womb (uterus). The images are sent to a monitor so your nurse/ doctor can see inside your womb and record pictures of what they find.

You can have a hysteroscopy for a range of reasons, such as excessive bleeding, recurrent miscarriage, infertility, pelvic pain or unusual bleeding. Sometimes you also have one to actually treat a condition such as removing a displaced IUD (or embedded as mine was), or removal of small polyps or fibroids. On one occasion I also had one to take a small biopsy before I had an operation.

Each of my hysteroscopys have been as an out patient, so I just arrived at a set time and left after about 30/45 minutes.

How to prepare for the Hysteroscopy

  • Personally I have found that all I need to do in preparation is have a shower so I feel comfortable and clean
  • I make sure that I relax and don't get stressed before the procedure. I have definitely found, and my gynae nurse has told me too, that the more relaxed you are during the procedure the easier it is.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothes, as you'll need to remove everything from the waist down and you don't want fiddly clothes holding you up.
  • My leaflet I was given advised that if you usually suffer with period cramping, it might be an idea to have a paracetamol or ibubrofen (whatever you normally take) to help with any cramping pains that you may experience
  • You can't have a hysteroscopy if you are pregnant so you need to be aware of that and be taking adequate precautions
  • Generally you do not have an anaesthetic before a hysteroscopy and thus you should eat and drink normally (some people may, everyone is different, but your healthcare professional will make sure you understand what is necessary for your circumstances)
  • You may wish to take a friend or relative with you if you are nervous or just wish for some company. I have always gone alone and felt happy with this. 

What to Expect when you Arrive at the Doctors/ Hospital

Once you are invited in to the room to chat with your nurse/ doctor they will probably go over your recent medical history and the reason for you being there to have a hysteroscopy. They will explain the procedure, what will happen and how long they expect it to take and you'll also sign the consent form. You can ask any questions or express any concerns you may have at this point

If you are particularly anxious, your nurse/ doctor has the option to offer you a sedative to help you relax and to make the procedure easier. I have never needed this. 

I had to have a pregnancy test before I was allowed the procedure even though I take the mini-pill. I don't know if the NHS make every woman take a test or if it depends on our birth control method, as I was asked that question first. So make sure you need a wee when you arrive!

What to expect during the Hysteroscopy Procedure

I was then asked to go behind the curtain and remove all my clothes below my waist and sit in the special chair (This reclines you and allows you to spread your legs to allow the nurse easy access to your vaginal area). I had a gown to cover up with, so I didn't feel 'on show'.

When I was ready the gynae nurse came in and she was chatting to me to help me stay relaxed. There was also a health care assistant and nurse in the room as well and I felt comfortable with them all as they were friendly, yet professional.

I believe the vaginal area is cleansed with an antiseptic but I wasn't aware of this, then the hysteroscope was then inserted into my vagina and I hardly felt a thing. The first thing I noticed was the wet sensation as water was put into my womb to help the camera be able to see better. I can honestly say I didn't have any resistance or particular pain on any of the occasions that I have had this procedure. 

I'm sharing here the NHS statement about pain (as shown on their website) in regards to hysteroscopy, as I'm no expert and as mentioned, I am sharing my experience, which has been of little pain during my three procedures as an out patient. However, different women expeirence different things, just like in every medical procedure.

On one occasion I had a biopsy of my womb lining taken and with this I felt momentary pain, but it was over quickly. 

Some photos were taken during the examination and when my nurse was satisfied she had seen everything she needed, she removed the hysteroscope and left me to get cleaned up and dressed again. I had tissues, wipes and pads available to me to help me get cleaned up and I certainly needed those as a lot of fluid came away quite quickly.

I was with the gynae nurse for around 30 minutes in total, including the chat, pregnancy test and procedure. The hysteroscopy itself took about 10 minutes maximum.

Once I was dressed my nurse explained what she had seen and said I'd have an appointment with the consultant to discuss further options, like if I wanted another TCRE operation due to fibroids and excessive bleeding. Depending on the reason you had your hysteroscopy may vary what information you are given and what happens after the procedure.

What to expect after the procedure

  • You'll get some discharge from the fluid trickling back out, this can last 1-2 days, so best to wear a pad/ liner. 
  • Some women experience a little bleeding or spotting. For me, I have been bleeding twice when I've had the procedure and both times after it has made my flow a little heavier for a short while. 
  • I expereicned a little cramping each time I had the procedure but it didn't last long and I didn't feel the need to take pain relief. 
  • I have felt well enough each time to work in the afternoon after a morning procedure, but of course it depends on what you do for work
  • You can eat and drink as normal
  • It is advised to abstain from sex for a week or until any bleeding has stopped, this helps avoid the risk of infection.
  • I've also read that some health care professionals advise you avoid swimming or baths for a few days after the procedure, again to avoid infection. Showers are fine. 

Hysteroscopy FAQ

  1. Can I have a hysteroscopy if I am pregnant?  No, definitely not
  2. Can I have a hysteroscopy if I am bleeding? Yes, it is not ideal as the camera's view can be distorted with excessive blood but for some patients (like myself) there might not be another option
  3. Will I need a general anaesthetic?  No, not normally, it is normally done without any anaesthetic. If you feel this will be an issue for you, speak to your healthcare professional about sedation or anaesthetic
  4. How long will it take? Normally between 5 - 30 minutes
  5. Will the hysteroscopy hurt? The NHS advise that you may experience mild cramping, but it is not normally a painful procedure. However, I was contacted by a number of women on twitter who have had pain. So if you want to find out more stories of real women having hysteroscopies, (both bad and good) check out Care Opinion 
  6. Do I need to shave before the Procedure? No

If you're going to be having the procedure soon, I wish you all the best and hope they get to the bottom of what is troubling you and can come up with a good treatment plan. Mich x

Useful Links

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists leaflet on Hysteroscopy

Why not pin this post for later?

Hysteroscopy pin

Disclaimer: Please remember that I am not a health care professional and I am just sharing my personal experience and my knowledge of a hysteroscopy as I understand it. You should always discuss all health matters with your health care professional and ensure they answer your questions if you are unsure of anything. 
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