The three most common reasons for hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) are uterine fibroids, endometriosis and uterine prolapse. After C-sections, it’s the second most frequently performed major surgical procedure on women of reproductive age. Around 600,000 are performed annually, and it’s estimated 20 million American women have had one.
Many women are told removing the uterus and leaving the ovaries will help, and symptoms of menopause will not be a concern, and that’s not true. During surgery, arteries that feed the uterus and ovaries are clamped, leading to the ovaries having a mini-stroke from lack of blood flow. When the uterus is removed, the major arteries are also taken out, limiting blood flow to the ovaries afterwards, which eventually leads to the ovaries declining quickly or failing altogether.
Within a month of a hysterectomy, even when leaving both ovaries, women will often begin to experience menopausal symptoms. The ovaries stop producing testosterone, leaving only a small amount produced by the adrenal glands. The resulting deficiencies can cause fatigue, low libido, mood disorders, muscle aches and pain, and can lead to an increased risk for other major health issues. Most will also experience a 30-50% decline in estrogen production, leaving severe deficiencies and symptoms like memory loss, weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, low libido, vaginal dryness, night sweats and insomnia. In other words, women gain all the debilitating symptoms of menopause, minus the irregular periods – which can mean feeling even WORSE than before the surgery.
Simply removing the uterus and leaving the ovaries increases risk for developing ovarian cancer in future. As a doctor, I believe that if women are in perimenopause or close to menopause and a hysterectomy is recommended, the ovaries should also be taken. We can replace the hormones, keep women feeling their best and their bodies functioning well, and reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer. Understanding all of these risks and side effects BEFORE consenting to surgery means you can be prepared for what will happen, and decide how to treat the hormonal deficiencies.
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