Understanding Surgical Menopause: Procedures, Preparation, and Support
Surgical menopause is a life-changing event that occurs when a person’s ovaries are removed through surgery, inducing menopause suddenly rather than naturally. This process can be both physically and emotionally challenging. In this blog post, we will explore what surgical menopause is, the various procedures that can lead to it, the reasons behind undergoing surgical menopause, and how to prepare for it. We will also discuss the importance of seeking support and how counselling with a systemic psychotherapist can aid in coping with the emotional aspects of this transition.
What is Surgical Menopause?
Surgical menopause, also known as induced menopause or iatrogenic menopause, occurs when the ovaries are surgically removed, either partially or entirely. This surgical intervention results in an abrupt halt to the production of oestrogen and progesterone, the hormones responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and various bodily functions.
Procedures Leading to Surgical Menopause
There are several medical procedures that can lead to surgical menopause. Some of the most common ones include:
- Hysterectomy: The removal of the uterus can trigger surgical menopause if the ovaries are also removed during the procedure. This is called a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.
- Oophorectomy: When only the ovaries are removed, it leads to surgical menopause. This can be done as a standalone procedure or in conjunction with other surgeries.
- Chemotherapy or Radiation: In cases of cancer treatment, chemotherapy and pelvic radiation can damage the ovaries, leading to early menopause.
Reasons for Surgical Menopause
People may undergo surgical menopause for various reasons, including:
- Medical Conditions: Conditions like endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or certain types of cancer may necessitate the removal of the ovaries.
- Risk Reduction: Some individuals with a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer may choose prophylactic oophorectomy to reduce their risk.
- Gender-Affirming Surgery: Transgender individuals undergoing gender-affirming surgery may opt for oophorectomy as part of their transition.
Preparing for Surgical Menopause
Preparing for surgical menopause is crucial, both physically and emotionally. Dr. Joanne Hobson, Clinical Lead Director of The Menopause Consortium, emphasizes the importance of comprehensive pre-surgery preparation. This preparation includes:
- Consultation with Healthcare Providers: Speak to your surgeon and medical team about the procedure, potential side effects, and any concerns you may have.
- Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT): Discuss with your healthcare provider when to start MHT to manage menopausal symptoms. NICE Guidelines and the British Menopause Society’s resources can provide valuable information.
- Mental and Emotional Support: Seek counselling and support from professionals like Liz Tatham, a Systemic Psychotherapist with The Menopause Consortium. Psychotherapy can help you navigate the emotional challenges associated with surgical menopause.
Support Before and After Surgery
Before undergoing surgery, it’s essential to build a support network. This may include:
- Family and Friends: Share your concerns and needs with loved ones who can provide emotional support.
- Support Groups: Joining menopause support groups can connect you with others who have experienced surgical menopause. These groups offer a safe space to share experiences and seek advice.
- Professional Counselling: Systemic psychotherapy, as offered by Liz Tatham, can be invaluable in addressing the emotional aspects of surgical menopause. It helps individuals explore the impact of the procedure on their relationships and overall well-being.
In conclusion, surgical menopause is a significant life event that requires careful preparation and support. By seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, support groups, and therapists, individuals can better navigate the physical and emotional challenges associated with this transition. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available to assist you in your journey through surgical menopause.