Benefits of Surgical Menopause
Meta Description: For women who are experiencing symptoms after having surgical menopause, hormone replacement therapy might help — learn more
While natural menopause in women usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and can last for a number of years, surgical menopause develops suddenly after a procedure called oophorectomy in which the ovaries are removed.
Sometimes women have a hysterectomy — removal of the uterus — at the same time they have their ovaries removed. But women who only undergo a hysterectomy will not experience surgical menopause, although they will stop having their periods.
Because the ovaries are the main source of estrogen production, having them removed sets off immediate menopause, regardless of the woman’s age. This dramatic drop in estrogen can cause severe menopausal symptoms.
For women who are experiencing symptoms after having surgical menopause, hormone replacement therapy might help.
Women who have both their ovaries and uterus removed typically receive estrogen replacement therapy alone. While those who have only had their ovaries removed will usually be needing estrogen and progestin therapy. This is because using estrogen alone increases the risk of cancer developing in the uterus.
Why Do Some Women Have Their Ovaries Removed?
Some women have their ovaries removed and experience surgical menopause to increase their health and prevent the onset of certain cancers.
The development of some types of cancers is stimulated by estrogen which increases the likelihood of cancer in some younger women. Women with a history of breast and ovarian cancer in their families are at greater risk of getting these cancers.
Still, other women might decide to have their ovaries removed to treat the symptoms of endometriosis, a painful condition that causes the growth of uterine tissue outside the uterus. This can affect the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and/or lymph nodes.
Additional reasons women may choose to remove their ovaries include having recurrent ovarian cysts, ovarian tumors, or having the condition ovary torsion, in which ovaries have become twisted thus affecting blood flow.
Estrogen Replacement Therapy and Surgical Menopause
After a woman has surgical menopause, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) can help counteract the sudden loss of estrogen.
There are several possible benefits of ERT for women who have their ovaries removed at a younger age. Experts say that sufficient amounts of estrogen in younger women help them from developing certain diseases.
Studies have shown that younger women who have had surgical menopause are at greater risk of heart disease including Parkinson’s and dementia.
Some women may choose ERT after surgical menopause because symptoms are so severe and other types of treatments just don’t seem to help. ERT has been found to be quite effective at treating hot flashes, sleep problems, and vaginal dryness. Some statistics say that hormone replacement therapy can reduce the number of hot flashes by 75%.
But before considering ERT after undergoing surgical menopause, you should consult your health care provider and other medical professionals to discuss your situation.
What Type of ERT Is Right For Me?
There are various methods of ERT and depending upon your particular lifestyle, some may be more preferable than others:
● Pills. The most common method of ERT is a daily oral medication. This is the most studied form of ERT which means the benefits and risks are well-known. Some side effects may include vaginal discharge, nausea, headache, and swollen breasts.
● Patches. More convenient than taking a pill, the patches need only be replaced twice a week. Patches allow for direct access to the bloodstream from the skin. By bypassing the liver, these are safer alternatives than pills, especially for people who have liver problems.
● Creams, Gels, and Sprays. Topical ERT, like patches, is absorbed through the skin. One drawback is that such medications can rub off before being absorbed. So it’s important to make sure it’s dry before putting on clothes for example.
● Vaginal Suppositories, Rings, and Creams. Women who have used these products say they work well at combating vaginal dryness, irritation, and pain during intercourse. Although they're not as effective in treating other menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. These applications tend to be more convenient than others, only having to be inserted once every three months. And since the medication is applied directly to the uterine area, it’s safer than other methods that expose the entire body to high levels of estrogen.
If you’re experiencing symptoms after having your ovaries removed, or want to know more about why fluctuating hormone levels cause other symptoms, then let’s talk.