The removal of a woman’s uterus in a procedure known as a hysterectomy will stop her periods and prevent her from becoming pregnant. When the ovaries are also removed, early menopause is likely. Women sometimes opt to keep at least one ovary for hormone production, and to keep other medical risks in check (e.g., bone loss, heart disease).
But women who kept one or both ovaries after a hysterectomy were still twice as likely to experience early menopause, compared to women who do not have their uterus removed, according to a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Of approximately 450 women between the ages of 30 to 47 who had a hysterectomy but kept at least one ovary, almost 15 percent went through menopause during the five-year study. Women who kept one ovary were found to be at the greatest risk for menopause, but even women who kept both ovaries had an increased risk.
Just 8 percent of the women who didn’t have a hysterectomy went through menopause during the study – and they did so about two years later than women who had a hysterectomy.
What causes the ovaries to shut down after a hysterectomy remains unknown.
“Some have hypothesized that surgery disrupts the blood flow to the ovaries, so the surgery leads to early ovarian failure,” said lead author Patricia G. Moorman, an associate professor at Duke University in North Carolina. “Others have speculated it’s not the surgery but the underlying condition that causes it. Right now, it’s unresolved.”