Did you know that a hysterectomy can lead to early menopause? We’ll explain how.
A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove your uterus (also known as the womb). In some cases, your cervix, ovaries, and/or fallopian tubes may be removed as well. Following the procedure, you may experience a light period for up to a year if you have a partial hysterectomy. This is because you may have a remaining endometrial lining in your cervix. If you have a total or radical hysterectomy, you won’t experience menstrual periods again.
Hysterectomies are the second most common surgery among American women, with nearly 500,000 performed each year.
What is surgical menopause?
Some women opt to remove their ovaries at the time of a hysterectomy. One common reason is to reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer due to inherited genetic mutations or a family history of the disease. When both ovaries are removed before the natural onset of menopause, it’s called “surgical menopause.” That’s because it can lead to menopausal symptoms within days or even hours of surgery.
Symptoms of surgical menopause
During surgical menopause, your symptoms may be stronger than they would during natural menopause due to the sudden drop in hormones, namely estrogen. Side effects related to the abrupt loss of estrogen include hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. For some women, the symptoms of surgical menopause may last for many months.
Other potential benefits and risks
- Reduced anxiety about developing ovarian cancer
- Reduced risk of breast cancer for some high-risk women
- Reduced pelvic pain for women suffering from endometriosis
- Loss of bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis and fracture
- Less interest in sex or discomfort during sex due to dryness or irritation
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease (i.e. disorders of the heart and blood vessels)
Follow-up care for surgical menopause
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can offer relief from many of the symptoms of surgical menopause. For example, it can resolve hot flashes and night sweats in 80-90% of women, although it may not work as well in younger women. In addition, symptoms can reappear following discontinuation.
There are also some risks and contraindications for HRT, so talk to your doctor about your specific situation. For example, HRT can increase the risk of breast cancer. According to Breastcancer.org, however, short-term use is safe, even in high-risk women, and it does not erase the risk reduction that comes from having your ovaries removed.
Ongoing checkups to reduce risks
Following surgical menopause, it’s a good idea to see your doctor regularly and make a plan for long-term health maintenance. The increased risk of osteoporosis as well as cardiovascular disease means you’ll need to keep tabs on your bone and heart health. This may involve bone density scans, blood tests, and lifestyle changes recommended by your doctor.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Hysterectomy.” Office of Women’s Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. February 22, 2021. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/hysterectomy.
- “Surgical Menopause Information Sheet (January 2017).” Australasian Menopause Society. January 2017. https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/surgical-menopause.
- “Prophylactic Ovary Removal: What to Expect.” Breastcancer.org. https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/prophylactic_ovary/what_to_expect/after.