Because the ovaries make most of your body's estrogen, it makes sense that these levels would drop a lot after your Oophorectomy or complete hysterectomy. While these hormone levels naturally decline as you get older, women in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s still need adequate levels. Read on to learn why decreased estrogen levels can be an issue and how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help.
How Do Oophorectomies Affect Hormone Levels?
Oophorectomies and hysterectomies can life-saving procedures for women with cancer, endometriosis, and other series conditions. While the benefits of this surgery may improve your quality of life and outweigh the risks, they can cause a severe drop in estrogen—as well as progesterone and testosterone. These altered levels can cause symptoms of early menopause, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, disrupted sleep, and depression.
Estrogen is essential to healthy bones since the hormone promotes the activity of osteoblasts or cells that make bone tissue. If your estrogen levels drop dramatically after surgery, then you can be at a greater risk for osteoporosis.
The Mayo Clinic says that if a woman undergoes a prophylactic oophorectomy and doesn't replace those missing hormones, she could have a higher risk of neurological diseases and heart disease.
How Does Hormone Replacement Therapy Work?
You'll first need to talk with your doctor to see if hormone replacement therapy is right for you. If you only had your ovaries removed and not your uterus in a total hysterectomy, then your doctor may prescribe a progesterone or progestin medication along with estrogen. When estrogen isn't balanced with progesterone, it can cause the lining of the uterus to grow too much and increase the risk of cancer.
To treat your symptoms after surgery, your doctor may prescribe a skin patch, gel, cream, or pill that contains the needed hormone doses. If you go with a gel, you'll want to get it from a compounding pharmacy so that the dose can be tailored to your body's needs. If you do use a gel, it's also important to wash your hands afterward after application so that you don't touch other people or pets with the cream.
Are There any Risks?
Like any surgery or medication, there are some risks you should be aware of. Hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of some serious conditions, like blood clots and stroke. However, the risks of these conditions are lower in younger women and women in good health.
For some people, the benefits of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the risks. One study found that people that were too conservative with their approach to HRT after oophorectomies were missing out on preventive health benefits. For instance, the study found that HRT could even reduce the risk of breast cancer for some individuals.
Again, it's ultimately important to reach out to a doctor in your area for more information on HRT and how to best recover after your surgery.