This is the third of a 3-part series on hysterectomy. **DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional and nothing in these articles should be construed as medical advice.
I count myself fortunate that I was already in perimenopause/menopause by the time I had my surgery. Hot flashes and mood swings were already standard, but they were fleeting. Hot flashes mostly happened at night and I'd have maybe one and could go days and even weeks between them. Even still, I had already had an introductory course to what was to come.
Enter hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Completely remove those ovaries and you have instant, full-on menopause that offers no mercy. Estrogen production comes to a screeching halt and let me tell you, it's not fun!
The hot flashes came in hot and often and all. through. the. day. Client meetings be damned. Memory? What's that? I went from being a person who enjoyed lovely sleep with dreams authored by God to consistent tossing and turning and there is no getting comfortable when your insides are regrouping. My dreams turned to processing and venting dreams which isn't as fun as when God is speaking to me through them.
Mood swings become more like a see saw. I'm up, I'm down. What triggers them? Who knows? Certainly not the conscious me. A special note about the mood swings that come after hysterectomy: Be mindful and honest about your mental health. Women get pretty used to mood swings over the years, but this time, it can become depression. There are a lot of emotions that can come up after a hysterectomy - especially depending on age, season of life, and health issues. Make sure you check in with yourself and your family. Ask your loved ones if they're seeing concerning signs or if it's "just the hormones." Be kind to yourself and ask for help.
Osteoarthritis had already set in long before my surgery, but after the estrogen was taken away the pain in my joints became much more severe. Suddenly the pain was more intense and I don't really know if I can trust my knees to not give out on me from moment to moment. It turns out estrogen provided anti-inflammatory benefits but now that it's gone, the aches and pains are magnified. Add to that the post-surgery restrictions placed on movement and exercise result in stiff muscles, weight gain, and generally feeling blah.
Estrogen provides a lot of health benefits. Removing ovaries means estrogen is greatly reduced and with that we add many health risks to our lives. Heart disease is a major concern, as well as other bone health and healing from skin and bone injuries
. Hormone replacement therapy is a very individual and personal decision to make. I haven't made it for myself yet. I've been doing research and trying to determine the best course of action for my body. I'm looking at plant based food sources, natural supplements, and the last option for me would be synthetic HRT. This is a decision that should be made based on your health history, your family's health history, and recommendations by a trusted health professional. Perhaps even consulting with an alternative health practitioner would be beneficial.
While hysterectomy means no more periods and cramps (yay!), it brings about an entirely new set of health issues that you simply must not ignore. This is not about being a complainer or too weak to deal, it's about honoring this season of life and take care of yourself to the fullest extent so that you will have an active, productive second half of life. There's a lot of people still depending on you but you have to be healthy first. You are worth being first!