Do you experience pain when attempting to use tampons or have sexual intercourse? If so, you may be one of the thousands of women and girls in the UK that has a hymen abnormality. It’s a problem almost never talked about, but it can severely impact on quality of life. Thankfully though there is a straightforward minor procedure to correct hymen abnormalities – hymenectomy (also known as hymenotomy). What is it and who is it for? Read on for everything you need to know about hymenectomy.
First things first – what is a hymen?
The hymen is a ring of fine, fleshy tissue situated at the vagina’s opening, usually half-moon-shaped. Contrary to popular belief, a normal hymen does not cover the whole vaginal opening, and this allows menstrual blood to pass through the vagina.
The hymen may be stretched open resulting in a small tear which heals after approx 10 days and allows penetration easily after. When a woman has sexual intercourse for the first time. Or in other cases, this may happen through playing sport or using a tampon. The hymen does not regrow after it has been stretched open.
In rare cases though, a woman’s hymen is different because she has either a septate hymen, cribriform hymen, imperforate hymen, or a microperforate hymen. These hymenal abnormalities are all congenital, meaning someone is born with one of them. In the UK, thousands of women are affected.
What is a septate hymen?
A septate hymen is one in which an additional band of skin runs across its centre, making two small holes instead of one.
What is a cribriform hymen?
A cribriform hymen has a number of little holes, rather than one.
What is a microperforate hymen?
A microperforate hymen is a very thick hymen with a single tiny opening.
What is an imperforate hymen?
An imperforate hymen is one which covers the vagina completely, as opposed to moon shaped
Many young women don’t realise they have an abnormal hymen until they begin to experience unusual levels of pain when trying to use tampons or have sex.
Why would you have a hymenectomy (hymenotomy)?
A hymenectomy is a straightforward medical procedure which removes the abnormal extra hymenal tissue which is obstructing the vaginal opening.. Hymenotomy on the other hand means making 2 incisions on each side of the Hymen which allows easy penetration.
Women with a septate hymen, cribriform hymen or microperforate hymen usually opt for a hymenectomy to drastically improve their quality of life. Because when the excess hymenal tissue is cleared, you should be able to do normal, everyday activities such as use tampons and have sex without that awful pain and distress.
A hymenectomy also enables more normal menstruation by enhancing the flood of blood and other secretions from the vagina. In addition to this, it can lower a woman’s chance of bladder infections, which are linked to unbroken hymens.
In the case of an imperforate hymen, a hymenectomy is medically necessary, because complete obstruction of the vaginal opening (blocking the flow of menstrual blood and other tissue) carries serious risk of complications such as infection.
Is a hymenotomy medically necessary?
Dr Alex Eskander, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre explains: “Often, when doctors recommend a hymenotomy it is because the surgery can radically improve a woman’s quality of life. The procedure can alleviate a lot of physical pain and distress, enabling more freedom in activities and lowering the chance of bladder infections. However in some cases, a hymenectomy is medically necessary. For example, an imperforate hymen (one that fully covers the opening to the vagina) can lead to significant health complications including infections, because the flow of menstrual blood and other discharge is so obstructed.”
Is a hymenectomy a major surgery?
No, hymenotomy is a minor surgery with no overnight stay. It is usually conducted under local anaesthetic, with sedation if requested. Here at The Gynae Centre, we are licensed to perform the procedure in our Central London suite and this saves our patients around 50% on costs because they can avoid an unnecessary hospital admission.
What happens during a hymenotomy?
The gynaecologist will numb the area with local anaesthetic and administer sedation if required. Then, with either surgical scissors or a scalpel, they will cut the excess hymenal tissue and then stitch up the incision points with sutures. Here at The Gynae Centre we use dissolving sutures, which saves the patient any additional discomfort from having them removed.
What happens after a hymenotomy?
After a hymenotomy, you will need to stay and rest for 1-2 hours. You will be given topical cream to help with healing. Your gynaecologist will give you specific aftercare instructions and these will usually include advice such as:
- Apply the medical cream to aid the healing process
- Take mild painkillers for any discomfort
- Do not use aspirin because it can lead to bleeding
- You can apply an ice pack to the perineum to stop swelling
- After 2 days, you can have warm sitz baths several times daily to aid with healing and any soreness
- Avoid heavy lifting until you are advised it is safe to do so
- You can recommence your normal diet
- Do not have sex or insert tampons until your doctor gives you the all-clear
The aftercare instructions for hymenectomy are fairly straightforward and you should have little trouble following them.
Are there any hymenotomy side effects?
Hymenotomy is considered a very safe and straightforward procedure. Of course, as with any medical intervention though there are a few possible risks/side effects:
- Irritation around the area as the wound is healing and the sutures dissolve
- Possible post-surgery infection
Risk of post-surgery bleeding
- Post-surgery discomfort longer in duration than expected following a hymenectomy
- Swelling or inflammation in the vagina or vulva area
- Possible injury to the urethra (the opening through which you urinate) which can impede urination
- Growth of scar tissue which can lead to pain
Here at The Gynae Centre we have performed countless hymenotomies, helping our patients to live a full and happier life. To find out how we can help, call us on 020 7580 8090.