Surgical menopause results from the following:
- Bilateral oophorectomy, which in lay terms simply means the removal of both ovaries
- Failure of the ovaries due to surgical trauma, such as damage to the blood vessels connected to the ovaries during a hysterectomy or failure following surgery
- Failure of the ovaries due to radiation or chemotherapy
A bilateral oophorectomy is often done in conjunction with a hysterectomy, or can be done as a single procedure, such as when ovarian cancer is suspected.
Differences Between Natural and Surgical Menopause
Natural menopause begins when the ovaries cease to produce an egg every four weeks, menstruation ceases and the woman is no longer able to bear children. Postmenopausal begins after menstruation has ceased for 12 months. For intact women, this process usually happens on average between the ages of 35 and 51. The ovaries reduce their production of estrogen and progesterone and physical changes and side effects occur that coincide with natural aging. In contrast, surgical menopause causes an immediate plunge into postmenopause after the ovaries are removed. Note that if you've had your ovaries removed after menopause, you won't be in surgical menopause and you won't feel any hormonal differences in your body. If you've had your ovaries removed before you've reached natural menopause, you'll wake up from your surgery in postmenopause.
Once the ovaries are removed, your body immediately stops producing estrogen and progesterone. Your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) will skyrocket in an attempt to make contact with ovaries that no longer exist. Unlike women who go through menopause naturally, women wake up after a bilateral oophorectomy in immediate estrogen withdrawal. It's that sudden: One day you have a normal menstrual cycle, the next day you have none whatsoever. This can cause you to become, understandably, more depressed, and you'll also feel the physical symptoms of estrogen loss far more intensely than a woman in natural menopause.
Symptoms can include:
- Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
- Bouts of rapid heart beat
- Mood swings, sudden tears
- Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Crashing fatigue
- Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
- Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
- Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
- Memory lapses
- Itchy, crawly skin
- Headache change: increase or decrease
- Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
- Tingling in the extremities
- Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
Fortunately, you most likely won't experience all of these symptoms, and the ones you do have will vary in degree and duration. The great news is that nature offers you alternatives to the damaging effects of convential horomone replacement therapy. Soy isoflavones are phytochemicals(naturally occurring plant chemicals) in soy products. Some isoflavones, such as genistein and daidzein, exert mild estrogenic effects and are thus called phytoestrogens. Structurally similiar to estrogen, soy isoflavones have the capacity to bind to empty estrogen receptors and relieve hormonally based symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. It is this ability to decrease hormone reception that also seems to be the mechanism by which phytoestrogens such as soy isoflavones prevent hormone-dependent cancers.
In addition to the physiological changes that occur during hysterectomy, there can also be emotional and psychosocial changes after the surgery. The natural, gradual transition from peri- into post-menopause normally gives the woman an opportunity to gradually adjust to her biological and emotional changes and to ease into the second part of her life. Women undergoing surgical menopause don't have the luxury of easing into it over time. Rather, the woman is faced with both the challenge and opportunity to establish a new hormonal balance and make the mental adjustments necessary to not only deal with the shock of surgery, but also to establish a relationship with her new and different body/self.
When Does Surgical Menopause Begin?
If you've had your ovaries removed, the period you had prior to your surgery will have been your last, so you won't experience peri-menopause or menopause, just postmenopause.
If you've had a hysterectomy without surgical removal of your ovaries, or radiation/chemotherapy, and there's a question as to whether your symptoms are related to menopause, your doctor will perform a vaginal smear and a blood test to detect your FSH levels. If indeed you are in menopause, you can take natural hormone replacements such as Soy Isoflavones that with time will re-balance your hormones.
If the blood supply leading to your ovary was not damaged during your surgery, then you should still be able to produce enough estrogen for your body. If you begin to go into ovarian failure, the symptoms will depend on how fast the ovary is failing; you may experience symptoms more akin to natural menopause, or you may experience sudden symptoms mirroring the surgical menopause experience. Great news there is hope, Soy Isoflavones
Natural Alternatives for Menopause
Bioidentical Progesterone Cream with Phytoestrogens
Contains both progesterone and phytoestrogens which work together to provide women more effective control of their menopausal symptoms.
Menopause Formula (PhytoBalance)
PhytoBalance contains eight of the most tested and proven herbs that reduces hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability, and depression associated with perimenopause and menopause.