Hysterectomy: Does it cause early menopause?

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Hysterectomy: Does it cause early menopause?

Question

Does hysterectomy increase the likelihood of early menopause? Some research seems to suggest this.

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Illinois

Answer

Hysterectomy is associated with a slightly earlier onset of menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. But the data on this are difficult to interpret.

Hysterectomy — the surgical removal of the uterus — is often confused with surgery to remove both the uterus and ovaries (hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). Menopause occurs abruptly when the ovaries are removed. But if only your uterus is removed, your ovaries remain functional. Although your periods stop and you can no longer become pregnant, you will continue to ovulate until you reach the natural age of menopause, which is usually between the ages of 50 and 52.

The question of whether hysterectomy hastens menopause is difficult to answer because menstrual bleeding stops when the uterus is removed. As a result, the precise timing of menopause can't be determined.

Some research, however, indicates that women who have had a hysterectomy may reach menopause two to three years earlier than expected. It's unclear why, but possibly the surgery reduces the blood supply to the ovaries, diminishing their ability to produce estrogen and maintain the reproductive cycle. Many women who have a hysterectomy have also had prior surgeries for reproductive disorders such as endometriosis. These surgeries might have damaged the ovaries and sped up the loss of estrogen even before the hysterectomy.

Last Updated: 09/27/2006
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