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A hysterectomy is a common procedure that often happens right before, during or after menopause.
Most women choose to have a hysterectomy to stop pelvic pain or prevent or remove cancer.
Certain hysterectomies can speed up aging and risks for age-related conditions. It’s important to talk with your doctor to prepare for these possible changes.
If you’re in your 50s, you’ve likely already started menopause or will soon. It can also start earlier in your 40s. Menopause brings a lot of changes to the body. For many, it sometimes coincides with having a hysterectomy – a procedure to remove the uterus.
There are a lot of rumors about what happens if you get a hysterectomy. I hear that you gain a lot of weight. I hear that you grow facial hair. I hear that your mood changes completely. While a lot of what you hear about hysterectomies is exaggerated, there are some possible side effects to think about if you’re planning to have this procedure.
Certain types of hysterectomies can speed up aging and your risk for age-related conditions. But that doesn’t always mean that a hysterectomy isn’t what’s best for your health.
Read on to learn more about hysterectomies, why people get them and how they can impact your body’s aging process.
What is a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is a procedure to remove a person’s uterus. There are multiple types of hysterectomies. Each type has different possible side effects and complications.
- Partial hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus but not the cervix.
- Total hysterectomy: Removal of the entire uterus and cervix. This is the most common type of hysterectomy.
- Total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Removal of the uterus, cervix, one or both ovaries (oophorectomy), and one or both fallopian tubes.
- Radical hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus, womb and surrounding tissues, including fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands and fatty tissue.
Why would someone need a hysterectomy?
Hysterectomies are very common, especially in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 women will have a hysterectomy by age 60. People have hysterectomies for different reasons.
Many people get a hysterectomy to help with symptoms and pain from other gynecological issues, such as endometriosis or fibroids. Others may get a hysterectomy to reduce their risk of some types of breast or ovarian cancer.
Typically, people have a hysterectomy after other non-invasive treatments fail. Some may try birth control or hormone therapy first. Others may need a hysterectomy right away because of a condition like pelvic prolapse (when the tissues and muscles of the pelvic floor no longer support the reproductive system).
A hysterectomy can be a big decision, so regardless of your situation, it’s best to talk to your doctor to see what’s right for you.
Does a hysterectomy cause rapid aging?
Having a hysterectomy is a big change for your body. Depending on where you are in your menopause journey, this type of procedure can cause hormonal changes resulting in different side effects.
A hysterectomy by itself usually doesn’t affect your hormones and aging as much. When the ovaries are involved though, it can alter your estrogen levels.
In 55% of all hysterectomies, both ovaries are removed. Ovaries are the organs that produce the hormone estrogen. Estrogen affects many functions in the body, such as the menstruation cycle. When the ovaries are removed, menstruation stops, and menopause begins soon after (if it hasn’t already). For women who have not started menopause, a hysterectomy may actually cause early menopause and some of the symptoms that are often associated with getting older.
A sudden loss of estrogen in the body can lead to physical changes
These changes may include:
- Hot flashes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased sex drive
Estrogen loss can mean an increased risk of age-related issues
Some age-related health issues may include:
- Cognitive impairment, such as dementia and Parkinsonism
- Low bone mineral density, which can lead to arthritis and osteoporosis
- Faster loss of tissue, which connects and supports body functions. This typically is related to aging and linked to heart disease, stroke, depression and anxiety
- Decrease in elastic fibers of the skin, which may show more visible signs of aging
For those who don’t have their ovaries removed, rapid aging symptoms are still possible but may happen less suddenly.
Having a hysterectomy without an oophorectomy may increase the likelihood of eventual ovary failure. Ovary failure causes the decrease in estrogen to happen more gradually – meaning associated symptoms also may happen more gradually.
What should I do if I’m considering a hysterectomy?
If you are planning to get a hysterectomy, talk through it with your doctor. Ask questions to make sure it’s what’s best for your health.
For people having both ovaries removed, hormone therapy may be an option. This type of therapy helps the body adjust to the loss of estrogen, making any menopause symptoms milder. Hormone therapy can help reduce the risk of age-related health issues, too, such as bone loss. Lifestyle changes including exercise and diet can also help reduce symptoms.
Ultimately, it’s about weighing the risks of keeping your ovaries and/or uterus with the risks of removing them and possibly developing age-related health issues. For many patients, a hysterectomy brings a sense of relief.
At Providence, your doctor can help you understand more about this surgical procedure. It’s important that you feel prepared for any changes that could result from a hysterectomy.
Find a doctor
Our team of gynecologists at Providence is here to help you, at any age, find the best approach for your gynecological health. You can access a full range of healthcare services through Providence Express Care Virtual. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.