One of the surgical treatments for some pelvic conditions like fibroids is a total hysterectomy, in which your uterus or womb and cervix are removed.
This marks the end of your ability to get pregnant, and it also means you no longer have periods. If your ovaries were removed at the time of your hysterectomy, you may experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and difficulty sleeping.1
That raises a question: how long does menopause last after a total hysterectomy?
What is a Hysterectomy?
There are different kinds of hysterectomy, depending on the organs that may be removed along with the surgical removal of the uterus. A total hysterectomy means removing your uterus and cervix, but leaving your ovaries. Your doctor may also just remove the upper part of your uterus while leaving your cervix.1
Sometimes your fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed, and if you have not yet experienced menopause, the removal of your ovaries will start menopausal symptoms.1
Finally, a radical hysterectomy—usually performed when cancer is involved—means removal of your uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, the upper portion of your vagina and some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.1
Why Does Menopause Happen After a Hysterectomy?
Your ovaries make most of your body’s estrogen until you enter menopause. When your ovaries are removed during a hysterectomy, your estrogen levels drop, bringing on early menopause with symptoms like hot flashes.2
Not all women who undergo a hysterectomy will go into menopause, however. Only a surgical removal of your ovaries causes that.3
If your ovaries were not removed during a hysterectomy, you might temporarily experience menopausal symptoms following surgery. That’s because the blood supply to the ovaries was disturbed during surgery. Those symptoms should lessen as you heal.3
How Long Does Menopause Last After A Total Hysterectomy?
The experience of what’s called “surgical menopause” is similar to the general symptoms of menopause. The difference can be in the timing. The natural progression known as perimenopause happens over a period of years. It ends in menopause, which is when your ovaries stop releasing eggs and your periods stop.4
If you have a hysterectomy that includes removing the ovaries, your supply of eggs is suddenly gone and your body will go through menopause all at once. That sudden drop of estrogen levels when the ovaries are removed can mean that symptoms of surgical menopause may be more intense than those of natural menopause.4
Symptoms of surgical menopause are temporary, gradually subsiding as your body adjusts to lower estrogen levels. How long menopause lasts after a hysterectomy can vary, and may persist for several months or years. The treatment plan suggested by your healthcare provider may vary depending on your age, overall health and the severity of your symptoms.4
Some women who have had their ovaries removed choose estrogen therapy to replace some or all of the estrogen that their ovaries would have been making until they reached menopause. It depends if you have already gone through menopause, or are younger and years away from menopause.2
Doctors may recommend other types of therapy, including diet and exercise. Since a drop in estrogen can put you at risk for weak bones later in life—leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis—other treatments include eating foods that are rich in calcium, and taking vitamin D supplements.2
It’s also common for women who enter menopause because of a hysterectomy to experience a sense of loss. It is natural to feel an emotional loss, so you should seek help if you are having difficulty after a hysterectomy.3
See a Doctor
If you’ve had a hysterectomy or will be having one, speak to your doctor about the implications following surgery. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. Educating yourself before the surgery can help you prepare for the changes to your body that happen following surgery.