A hysterectomy is a surgery that removes a woman’s uterus. It can involve an “oophorectomy”, in which the ovaries are removed as well. A hysterectomy is labeled a “complete hysterectomy” if the uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed together. A “sub-total hysterectomy” is when the cervix is left inside the body and the remainder of the uterus is removed. This type of procedure fell out of favor a couple of decades ago but is now becoming more common.
In the U.S., more than 600,000 women have hysterectomies each year. Over 90% of hysterectomies are for non-life threatening diseases. Half of these women will have their ovaries removed without having anything actually wrong with them. For more than 60 years, the medical literature has noted that hysterectomies are over-performed and that many are unnecessary. Doctors often scare women into having their ovaries removed, saying the woman may develop ovarian cancer—a cancer that is not terribly common.
Are there any complications to having a hysterectomy?
In fact, having a hysterectomy is not without risk. Complications include bladder and urinary problems, the necessity for repeat surgery, injury to the nerve that travels to the leg, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhage and complications needing intensive care and the intervention of another type of specialist.
Long term complications include the development of estrogen dominance which can contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, weight gain, depression and bodily aches and pains. Other long term risks involve developing heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. Mood swings, lack of a sex drive, bladder problems, and incontinence can also result. More than half of women surveyed indicated that, following their hysterectomy, they experienced new or worsened symptoms. Worst of all, up to 1,000 women die annually from complications of a hysterectomy, of which 90% were elective.
Traditional Medical Approach: This procedure is often performed to address an underlying hormonal imbalance. There may be certain conditions for which this procedure is warranted but it is highly over-performed or utilized. Discussion on elective ovarian removal should be avoided.
Functional Medicine Approach: Test… Test… Test… Balancing female hormones may be a life–saver. Once the proper testing and evaluation is performed, a trained practitioner can proceed to balance these hormones, avoiding a major procedure and ensuring optimum health.