Physical and Emotional Issues with Surgical Menopause

There’s no mystery about menopause; women have accepted it as a part of the cycle of life since before recorded history. Menopause signifies the end of a woman’s childbearing years, allowing the “next generation” of mothers-to-be to assume nature’s most important task of perpetuating the human race.

Menopause occurs in stages, beginning with pre-menopause (also called “peri-menopause”), natural menopause, and post-menopause. Each stage has recognizable signs and symptoms common among most women. However, there are times when a woman, for serious medical reasons, must have a total or partial hysterectomy. This is the medical state called surgical menopause.

The effects of menopause usually begin, on the average, when a woman reaches her late 40’s. However, surgical menopause may be necessary as early as adolescence depending upon the medical urgency of the procedure. After a young girl reaches puberty and begins to have menstrual periods, things can begin to go very wrong. At the other end of the age continuum, surgical menopause may be deemed medically necessary for a woman in her 40’s or 50’s. About ten years ago, medical scientists who conducted extensive research on hysterectomies resulting in surgically-induced menopause found that at least half of these hysterectomies were unnecessary by today’s medical standards of care.

A total hysterectomy is removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. A partial hysterectomy involves removal of the uterus, but leaving the ovaries intact so they can continue to produce necessary hormones such as estrogen and progestin. Surgical menopause results from a total hysterectomy, with all hormonal function ceasing.

The physical symptoms of surgical menopause are identical to those of natural menopause; hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood irritability, depression, fatigue, migraine headaches, vaginal dryness, skin dryness and wrinkling, panic attacks, and decreased sexual libido. These surgical symptoms of menopause are medically treated in the same way as with natural menopause. However, since the surgery was necessary because of severe medical conditions, other types of treatment are also given such as chemotherapy and chronic pain management.

Emotional Issues with Surgical Menopause

As physically challenging as surgical menopause is, the emotional upheavals resulting from this procedure can be devastating. Imagine you are a twenty year old woman with uterine cancer that requires a total hysterectomy; not only will you go through surgical menopause, but you must also accept that you will never have a child and many men will reject you because of this.

You will wonder, “Am I still a real woman?” without understanding that being a woman is more than just having a uterus. You will still have to cope with the medical condition(s) that caused the necessary total hysterectomy in the first place. You will likely develop a severe episode of major depression that requires antidepressant medication to resolve, and you may need to take this medication for the rest of your life. If, at a young age, you’re coping with cancer, you have a lower survival rate than older women. Mental health psychotherapy is a must for this type of menopause because it increases the young woman’s risk for suicide.

Even older women who have total or partial hysterectomies feel a combination of relief and regret. Knowing that the phase of life during which you bore children is over can cause some emotional issues that need the attention of a skilled therapist. If you need help, just ask for it!

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