PCOS and Hysterectomy: Is it a Cure?

It is a large myth that a hysterectomy is a cure for the millions of women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). As the name implies, PCOS does involve the ovaries, a source of excess androgens and the frustrating and unwanted symptoms that go with it.

It would then seem likely that removal of the ovaries would cure PCOS. However much is now know about PCOS beyond the ovaries and how it changes with age. Here’s what women with PCOS should know about the pros and cons of a hysterectomy and why women can still suffer from the hormonal effects of PCOS even with their ovaries removed.

Hysterectomy and PCOS

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), on average 600,000 American women have hysterectomies every year. A total hysterectomy is an invasive surgery in which the whole uterus and cervix are removed. Sometimes the ovaries and/or Fallopian tubes may also be removed during a hysterectomy.

A partial hysterectomy is when the upper part of the uterus is removed, but the cervix is left in place. Both surgeries can be done laparoscopicly or through manual incision in the abdomen and require approximately six weeks of recovery time.

Some women opt for a hysterectomy as a method of preventing pregnancy. In this case, a hysterectomy may be performed during a c-section. But in most instances, a hysterectomy may be medically needed if you have fibroids, severe endometriosis, excessively heavy periods, severe pelvic pain, or uterine prolapse and may be needed if you suffer from cancer in the reproductive organs (uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, or ovaries).

Why a Hysterectomy is not a Cure for PCOS

Having a hysterectomy results in what’s called surgical menopause. Your periods stop immediately. Hormone levels drop quickly as compared with the natural and gradual decline seen in menopause. Women who have had a hysterectomy but still have their ovaries, will see a decline in hormone levels and reach menopause earlier. Women who have their ovaries also removed during a hysterectomy will experience greater losses in estrogen and progesterone, which are hormones produced by the ovaries. Here’s some of the problems caused by the loss of these hormones.

Complications associated with a hysterectomy:

  • increased vaginal dryness
  • low sex drive
  • mood changes
  • insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • hot flashes
  • urinary incontinence
  • A hysterectomy also puts a woman at greater risk for osteoporosis due to the loss in estrogen

A hysterectomy is not a cure for PCOS and here’s why.

Androgens are still being produced.

For women with PCOS who have had a hysterectomy and her ovaries removed, she will still experience the long-term effects of having elevated androgens (male sex hormones like testosterone). The adrenal glands also produce testosterone and may be stressed to produce more to keep up with the loss of ovarian production. This means a woman may still suffer from excess hair growth, hair loss or balding, or even acne.

Metabolic problems persist.

While PCOS is a reproductive disorder, it’s also an endocrine disorder. Most women with PCOS have higher levels of insulin and inflammation than women without PCOS. If not well managed, excessive levels of insulin and inflammation can lead to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver disease. A quick loss of estrogen also increases the risk for these complications.

A hysterectomy will not cure these complications but rather an antioxidant rich whole foods based eating style, regular exercise, good sleep, and stress management will. The right supplements can also help (see below).

Sometimes a hysterectomy is necessary but it’s always worth seeking a second opinion if a hysterectomy has been recommended to you. Depending on the medical problem, there are alternatives to a hysterectomy to relieve pain, heavy periods, or fibroids.

Help for Older Women with PCOS

If you are an older woman with PCOS and are experiencing more metabolic complications associated with the condition, you may need more aggressive lifestyle management to prevent them from worsening. Here are some recommended tips for older women with PCOS regardless if you have had a hysterectomy or not:

  • Boost your diet with plenty of anti-inflammatory foods. This will help to reduce insulin and inflammation and help to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Exercise regularly for body and mind
  • Consider Ovasitol, an inositol supplement proven to reduce insulin levels and to help manage carbohydrate cravings
  • Consider Berberine as an aggressive way to reduce cholesterol and fatty liver as well as help reduce insulin and possibly body fat
  • N-acetylcysteine is a powerful antioxidant to support immune health and to lower cholesterol and insulin
  • Zinc can help reduce hair loss
  • Fish oil can help reduce androgens, inflammation, and triglycerides
  • Calcium is needed to prevent bone loss
  • Vitamin D is important to help with mood, prevent bone loss and fight inflammation
  • Magnesium can promote better sleep, help reduce anxiety and even pain

Do you have PCOS and was a hysterectomy recommended to you? Did you opt for the surgery and if so, what do you experience? If not, what did you do instead?

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