What Is Surgical Menopause?
A natural part of the aging process, menopause typically occurs for women in their 40s and 50s. Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. Sometimes women will experience menopause earlier than normal as a result of medical issues. These issues can be due to cancer, endometriosis, problematic cysts on the ovaries, and any number of other causes related to a woman’s reproductive organs.
So, exactly what is surgical menopause? This is when both of a woman’s ovaries are removed surgically, prior to the natural occurrence of menopause. Typically, this occurs with a hysterectomy – the removal of the uterus. If a woman has both ovaries removed after going through natural menopause, she will not feel any differently.
The main source of estrogen, progesterone, and androgens in the body are the ovaries. If the ovaries are removed, hormone levels fall and the changes associated with menopause will occur. Each woman is different, however the changes can include:
– Night sweats
– Mood swings
– Hot flashes
– Vaginal dryness
– Changes in sexual desire
After this type of surgery, the female body is thrown into the change of life due to a radical change in their hormone levels. One day a woman is having menstrual cycles and the very next day after surgery, she is postmenopausal. This can be very confusing and discouraging to the patient. If a woman goes through natural menopause, it is a more gradual change that can take many years. With surgical menopause, the women are usually younger than those experiencing natural menopause. Surgical menopause causes the patient to have both physical and mental changes that can be life-altering.
Some doctors will give estrogen immediately to the patient following surgery in an effort to prevent the intense changes. However, due to a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, estrogen is not always recommended for women with high risk factors. The rule of thumb with estrogen is to take the lowest dosage for the shortest period of time. There are alternative therapies such as antidepressants or herbal therapy. Black cohosh or a diet high in soy can help relieve hot flashes. Progestin may be prescribed but it’s use and benefits are controversial.
In answer to the question, what is surgical menopause, some women find that it is a solution to many of their medical problems.
If they had pain, heavy bleeding, or painful intercourse, those symptoms are gone and they feel healthy again. They no longer worry about becoming pregnant. And, ovarian cancer is no longer a major concern.
Educate yourself prior to the surgery and talk with menopause specialists – ask your doctor for recommendations. Most importantly, give yourself time to adjust to the physical and mental changes that will occur after surgical menopause.