Hysterectomies can come with side effects
Depression and anxiety are common
Studies link mental health concerns to hysterectomies
Younger women are more susceptible to these conditions
There are treatments available
Until recently, the link between hysterectomies and mental health wasn’t understood. However, a new study followed over 2000 women for 22 years. That makes it one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on this subject.
The results of that study found a 26 percent increase for depression and a 22 percent increase for anxiety post-surgery. For women under 35, the percentages were even higher. The study found an increase of 47 percent for depression and 45 percent for anxiety in younger patients.
Every year, over 500,000 women undergo hysterectomies with or without the removal of the ovaries. The effects of this serious surgical procedure can have an impact on both physical and mental health.
The reason for the surgery did not have any effect on the results. The diagnoses for the women in this study were uterine prolapse, menstrual disorders, and fibroids.
There is a correlation between hysterectomies and mental health
Years past, women may have been reluctant to speak up about mental health concerns. But as more women talked about the symptoms they were having, and more female health providers joined the ranks, it became evident there was a link between the procedure and mental health.
For younger women who have had hysterectomies, the realization they will never be able to give birth to a child can also lead to depression. Many women tie their femininity to their reproductive organs. After surgery, that tie is severed, and it can have a devastating effect.
When the ovaries are removed during a hysterectomy, there is an abrupt withdrawal of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. The lack of those essential hormones can lead to mental health conditions, so most doctors strive to leave the ovaries intact, if at all possible.
A person can look fine on the outside while trying to manage depression and anxiety on the inside. Symptoms of depression include fatigue, feelings of guilt or hopelessness, insomnia, and loss of interest in daily activities.
Signs of anxiety are nervousness, hyperventilation, trouble concentrating, and a sense of impending danger or panic. The earlier treatment begins, the better the results are.
There are many treatments available
There are currently no medications or treatments available that can replace the hormones lost after a hysterectomy.
Previously, doctors thought if a woman has one of these conditions and is past her child-bearing age, a hysterectomy was the answer to prevent further complications. Now experts know that even though a woman is in menopause, the ovaries continue to produce and release hormones that can protect against other conditions such as dementia and heart disease.
If there is a diagnosed mental health condition, support is available. A referral to a mental health professional and counseling is usually the first step, and sometimes that’s all that is needed.
As with many other health conditions, there are things a person can do at home. Some of these include maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. Frequently, stress levels exacerbate depression, and anxiety. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and focused breathing are helpful to many people.
Many women tie their femininity to their reproductive organs. After surgery, that tie is severed, and it can have a devastating effect on their lives.
If a woman finds a mental health professional with which she feels comfortable, she should try to keep that same provider. Studies show when a person goes from doctor to doctor and gets different mental health treatments from each one, the lack of communication can make treatment more difficult.
Suicidal thoughts can also arise from depression and anxiety. These need to be taken seriously. If necessary, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can be very helpful.
There is no better judge than the patient herself when it comes to health, so there should be no fear in talking about it. There are many online resources available, along with local support groups. Talking with people going through the same thing can do wonders for mental health.
A deeper dive — Related reading on the 101
- Self-love can be simple: 7 habits to start practicing right now | Living 101
Taking care of yourself should be a priority
- Want to live forever? Science may have answers | Living 101
There are ways to be father time!