Will you go through menopause directly after a hysterectomy? It depends. Did you keep your ovaries or an ovary after your hysterectomy? If you did keep an ovary or two, are they working properly? All of these details affect your hormones and if you drive straight into menopause-town.
I didn’t understand much of this when I went for my hysterectomy in 2018. I thought, “hey, I’m keeping my ovaries, I’m good to go,” but I wish I understood all the craziness of perimenopause and menopause just in case.
Does Having a Hysterectomy Mean Menopause?
If you have a complete/total hysterectomy that removes your uterus, cervix and your fallopian tubes, and ovaries (called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) – yes. When you wake up, your body will begin its beautifully shitty journey into menopause.
If you have any other type of hysterectomy (called a complete/total hysterectomy that removes just the uterus and cervix, or supracervical that removes just the uterus and keeps the cervix and ovaries) that keeps one or two ovaries, you might not. You might find that your body is creeping towards perimenopause and menopause relatively similar to your friends your age.
I was left with one ovary, but the blood supply was either not returned to it after my hysterectomy or it filed for unemployment and just stopped working like a normal 36 year old ovary. Cool story.
Oopherectomy and Menopause
I didn’t know going into my hysterectomy that I would also have an oopherectomy, but when it comes to endometriosis every surgery is a crap shoot. What will your surgeon find inside? It’s like a piñata! My surgeon found that my left ovary was stuck to my pelvic wall with endometriosis adhesions. It was a goner. One ovary down, unilateral oopherectomy done.
After surgery, I was not expecting to go through hormonal issues. I thought my one ovary would be a champion and pull through to provide the natural estrogen and progesterone to keep me away from menopause until my 50’s. Or at least mid 40’s (according to Mayo Clinic, the average age is 51). However, within a day, I started experiencing menopause symptoms and I guessed that my ovary was not pulling its own weight.
Menopause and Perimenopause Symptoms
According to Mayo Clinic, in the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), you might experience these signs and symptoms of menopause (or in my case, the weeks after a hysterectomy):
- Irregular periods (well, no uterus, so no period for me ever again)
- Vaginal dryness (I couldn’t even look at my vagina for 7 weeks, seriously, there’s a lot of warnings they give you about a healing vagina and the vaginal cuff after surgery)
- Hot flashes (check)
- Chills (check)
- Night sweats (check)
- Sleep problems (check)
- Mood changes (HUGE CHECK)
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism (check)
- Thinning hair and dry skin (jesus christ check)
Let me give you some examples of me going through menopause in an instant after hysterectomy.
Heart Palpitations After Hysterectomy
One of the scariest side effects that happened right after my surgery was heart palpitations. It felt as if my heart was constantly skipping a beat. I thought it might have just been a weird side effect from an antibiotic, but it kept happening. I almost went to the ER because it scared me so much. I had no idea that menopause could change your heart rhythm! After getting on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), these arrhythmias went away.
Mood Changes After Hysterectomy
Imagine crying over literally everything that you see or hear. Imagine sobbing over the stupidest questions like “do you think your cat is sad that it never had kittens?” I couldn’t stop crying.
But what is she always wanted to be a mom and now she never can?!?!
I also cried over a cake-pop shaped like a porcupine because it was “too cute to handle.” And any commercial that had sad music, and pretty much every holiday commercial about families coming together over coffee. It was out of control. I needed HRT like I needed to know if Mushu really ever wanted kittens.
Hot Flashes After Hysterectomy
Hot flashes are like when your brain is magically transported into an oven while your body still on the couch at a comfortable 70 degrees. The hormones, or lack thereof, after menopause make your body go haywire and sometimes put it into a state of extreme stress – heat, nausea/chills, sweating. This probably happens when you least want it to, like holiday gatherings.
Hot flashes can also happen at night – and for me they happen often. Night sweats are awful – just waking up drenched in sweat under the covers, begging to go stand in front of the refrigerator in the middle of the night. While mine initially got better after hormone replacement therapy, they have come back, a fun little experience I’m dealing with right now. Someone get me an ice pack.
Stress Incontinence After Hysterectomy
You ready to pee when you laugh? Cough? Sneeze? It’s a lot harder to control your bladder during urges (urge incontinence) or during pressure on the bladder (stress incontinence). Having a hysterectomy changes the form and function of your pelvic floor. Even though I’ve never had a kid, I sympathize with women who pushed out a 10 lb. kid and now cross their legs when they sneeze. I’ve tried all of the stress incontinence products before I got onto hormone replacement therapy, which helped, along with pelvic floor work.
Skin Changes After Hysterectomy
Right after my hysterectomy I started developing melasma. Melasma is a change in skin colorations, with brown patches appearing on the skin – often after hormone changes like pregnancy or menopause. I used Vitamin C on it as much as I could, but over-the-counter products weren’t enough. While dermatologists and cosmetologists offered laser treatment, my OBGYN offered me hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching prescription that is often used for melasma, but under a doctor’s supervision. Also, it meant I had to stay out of the sun for forever, or risk even more appearing. We’ll see how it turns out.
Also, cystic acne broke out like I was a 13-year old boy. I started developing hormone-based acne on my chin line and on my back and chest. It was like I was going through puberty! I’ve been trying to use DermaE acne products on what I can fight myself.
Because of this, I increased my Hormone Replacement Therapy and my OBGYN prescribed testosterone-blocking medication called spironolactone. Still working to resolve this one – not sure if I’ll continue using it, but it’s at least an option.
Menopause and Perimenopause Must-Have Products
I’ve found a few products that have been helpful to my journey that I wanted to share with you.
Speax Bladder Leak Underwear: Speax undies provide similar coverage as a light to moderate absorbency pantyliner, but in a built-in, washable underwear format.
Disposable bladder leak underwear: I used both Depend® Silhouette® Active Fit® Briefs and Always Discreet. Yes, they are bulkier than regular underwear, but for the most part were really comfortable and easy to hide under anything besides yoga pants.
Hydroquinone: This prescription medication is used for melasma.
DermaE Acne Line: This over-the-counter brand of beauty products is one of my favorites. I’m an ambassador for their lines of gluten-free plant-based beauty products. Their acne line has been great while I’m trying to get my hormonal acne under control. (affiliate link)
HRT Hormone Replacement Therapy: I’ve been using BiEst bio-identical hormone therapy since all these crazy things happened to me. I started out with troches (sublingual compounded medication), but it would make my tongue numb. Not sure what my reaction was to, but I switched to pills. Pills are supposed to be less effective than troches, but they’ve been working for me. Not only do these have estriol and estrodiol, but they have progesterone as well.
Your Menopause Journey
This is just the start of my menopause journey. I’ve got a long way to go and hopefully I can figure it all out. Anyone have any feedback from your menopause journey?