A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman's uterus to provide relief from health ailments like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, persistent pain, and bleeding. There are mainly three types of hysterectomy: total, partial, and radical. In total or complete hysterectomy, the uterus and cervix is removed along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes. During partial hysterectomy, only the uterus is removed leaving the cervix and ovaries intact. In radical hysterectomy, the uterus, cervix, ovaries, lymph nodes, and other supporting structures are removed.
Generally, normal menopause occurs in women between ages 45 and 55, when the ovaries no longer contain functioning eggs and there is a drop in the hormonal levels of estrogen and testosterone, the sex hormones produce by the ovaries. Whether it is a partial, complete, or radical hysterectomy, a woman undergoes a surgically-induced menopause, that affects her childbearing ability and changes her hormonal levels considerably. Due to these hormonal changes or imbalances, a woman usually experiences early menopause after hysterectomy and some other side effects of the same, which are as follows:
Menopause After Partial Hysterectomy
If a woman undergoes this type, she is most likely to have a normal perimenopause and menopause. Hence, a woman can have menopause after going through hysterectomy. However, it is difficult to detect when it's going to start, as there are no periods to identify the initial changes. In cases where one ovary is intact, the woman will enter into menopause naturally. Also, if the uterus is removed but the ovaries remain, the monthly menstrual cycle will cease while other symptoms particularly experienced during menopause will commence at an earlier age.
Menopause After Complete Hysterectomy
Now, when a woman undergoes this type, i.e. when both the ovaries along with uterus and fallopian tubes are removed, she is thrust abruptly into menopause which is also termed as surgical menopause. As a result, women dealing with this surgical menopause usually experience devastating signs of menopause as compared to those who go into it naturally. Some of the symptoms are:
- Hot flashes or feeling of warmth throughout the body that may last for 30 seconds to several minutes at a time. Besides this, the woman may also experience red skin flushes followed by severe perspiration.
- Due to changes in the thinning tissues lining the urethra and vagina, probability of having urinary tract infections may increase.
- Cosmetic changes like increased body fat and decreased muscle mass, a thicker waist, and dry skin.
- Night sweats, anxiety, or depression.
- Risks of having urinary incontinence.
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Mood swings and fatigue.
- Decreased libido or sex drive.
- Chances of osteoporosis and arthritis.
After hysterectomy, a woman experiences physiological, emotional, and psychosocial changes, which are expected and normal. Since, in most cases with natural menopause, a woman gets the time to adjust, but with surgical menopause, the woman normally faces some physical and psychological difficulties. However, the bright side is that the woman would experience her menopause for a shorter span of time than those who go through it naturally.
After hysterectomy, usually a woman undergoes hormonal replacement therapy, (replacement of lost estrogen hormone) which some women may tolerate while others may not. Hence, regular exercise, well-balanced diet comprising fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines), fruits, whole grains and vegetables, social interactions, positive attitude, along with proper medical care and a sound support system, will help to adjust with the symptoms of surgical menopause and one can live a normal and healthy life after hysterectomy.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.