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4 Surprising Hysterectomy Side Effects

Posted on January 14, 2024

It's important to know that you can treat fibroids without a hysterectomy. Why is that such crucial information? Hysterectomy causes major side effects, and they aren't just menopause and infertility. Now, many women with fibroids think they need a hysterectomy—surgical removal of the uterus. That's the case for Real Housewives of Potomac star Gizelle Bryant, who recently revealed on the show that “My uterus fibroids are so huge that they can’t just remove the fibroids. They’ve got to also remove my uterus, which is just like a full-blown hysterectomy.” Furthermore, she revealed, she "often broke out in a sweat" just thinking about the complications associated with this surgery.

Unfortunately, like Gizelle, some women are told that getting this drastic surgery is the only way to relieve fibroid symptoms. But there are less invasive treatments available, like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). This is a problem because, no matter what the reason, women who undergo hysterectomies face major surgery complications. And now, studies show that hysterectomy side effects may include mental and physical health struggles. We've already explored how hysterectomy side effects damage your heart health. So, today, we'll explore this surgery impacts your memory and your anxiety levels.

How a Hysterectomy can Hurt Your Mental Health

Women's risk for anxiety and depression increase after  hysterectomy, according to a study in the journal Menopause.

To reach this conclusion, researchers reviewed the medical records of 2,094 hysterectomy patients. For this study, none of those women had cancer. Next, they compared the records to those of same-aged women who hadn’t had a hysterectomy. And then they followed both groups for 22 years.

As it turns out, woman’s risk for depression relatively increased by 26 percent with hysterectomy. And the risk for anxiety increased by 22 percent after hysterectomy. Researchers discovered that age matters, too. In young women, who had a hysterectomy before 35, there was a 47 percent increased risk for depression. Also, the anxiety risk increased by 45 percent. Outside of cancer, the reason for the hysterectomy didn't seem to impact the increased risk of mental health issues.

Female with Fibroids

According to lead study author, Dr. Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic, “Hysterectomy is right for some women. But there is this 4 to 6 percent of women who will be affected by depression or anxiety. We’re hoping women will talk with their doctors and see if there’s any alternative they could use instead.”

From Science to Real Life

And these findings aren't just scientific observations. Real women are speaking up about the same issue. In fact, New Yorker author (and fibroid sufferer) Anna Parini just penned an extended essay about the grief she experienced due to a hysterectomy. She poignantly noted, "I imagine that, a few weeks or months after surgery, I’ll feel a sense of relief. No more heavy bleeding. No more anemia. No more Always Overnights, Size 5. But I know that I’ll be grieving, too, for a part of me that feels, even now, as I approach menopause, central to who I am and who I’ve been." Clearly, the struggle is real. But, for many women, it's also avoidable.

Uterine Surgery May Interfere with Memory

Depression isn't the only way hysterectomy may affect your brain function. According to a pre-human trial from Arizona State University, a hysterectomy could impact your memory. Now, if that sounds strange, it is. But here's what we know: your ovaries and brain are connected.  So your estrogen and progesterone levels impact your memory. But we now know that your uterus is tied to your autonomic nervous system. Which means that losing your uterus could affect your cognitive ability.

In order to illustrate this fact, Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson studied rats before and after a hysterectomy. Allowing for 6 weeks of recovery time, the study tested their post-hysterectomy working memory. And here's the bad news: after hysterectomy, rats couldn't navigate a maze they used to complete. In comparison, rats who kept their uterus had no problem finishing the maze. In other words, losing their uterus directly impacted rat memory. Clearly, this study has troubling implications for human females.

Urinary Incontinence Added to List of Hysterectomy Side Effects

A new study reveals that urinary incontinence becomes a problem for many women after uterine removal surgery. In fact, 38% of women reported this problem after surgery. But they had no incontinence concerns before their hysterectomies.

Researchers for this study thought that the type of hysterectomy might make a difference on women's bladder control after surgery. But that was not the case. Because, though participants were divided into groups by surgery type (laparoscopic hysterectomy (SLH), total abdominal hysterectomy (TAH), supervical abdominal hysterectomy (SH), or vaginal hysterectomy (VH)) they experienced incontinence at similar rates.

Myofascial Pain After Hysterectomy

And wait, there's more! Research now links myofascial pelvic pain and hysterectomy! In fact, if you have pelvic pain prior to your hysterectomy, you're more likely to need prescription opioid medications following surgery. And, as we know, these medications are highly addictive, and part of the growing opioid crisis in this country.

Now, this discovery is troubling. After all, many women choose hysterectomy because their fibroids trigger chronic pelvic pain. So, if the surgery actually makes pelvic pain worse, that could be a reason to seek other treatment options.

UFE: The non-surgical fibroid treatment option

Thankfully, many women with fibroids can find a non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy in our Houston-area practice. Using imagine, catheters and an injection, we are able to cut off blood flow to your fibroids, which makes them shrink and, eventually, disappear. It's a minimally invasive procedure, usually not involving a hospital stay.

If you have fibroids and are concerned about having a hysterectomy, reach out to our doctors. We can help you determine if UFE is the right treatment option for you.

Sources: Menopause, The New York Times, Journal of Endocrinology

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