Newsflash! Ladies, Even If You’re No Longer of Childbearing Age, Your Ovaries Are Still Very Important5 years ago | Hormones
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
In very sad news, a 58-year-old woman named Lucinda Methuen-Campbell committed suicide four years after undergoing surgery to correct a bowel disorder. She received a vaginal mesh implant during the surgery performed by an internationally recognized surgeon known for fixing bowel problems with this type of implant.
When she woke up from the operation, she was shocked to learn that her ovaries had also been removed. Reportedly her doctor removed her ovaries, despite not having her consent, during the operation because they were “in the way.”
The doctor told her women “of her age” do not really need their ovaries (she was 54 at the time of the surgery). This doctor is currently suspended and under investigation.
According to several reports, Methuen-Campbell’s pain was unbearable after the surgery. She said that her pain post surgery was worse than the pain from having the bowel disorder. And she believed this was due to the removal of her ovaries and a “botched” surgery.
It has been reported that the assistant coroner on this case said that he believed she took her own life because she could not deal with the pain anymore. Her son believes the same.
“She was in a great deal of pain after the operations (she had a follow-up surgery that made things even worse) and she was very upset that her ovaries had been removed,” her son said.
The surgical procedure of removing the ovaries is called an oophorectomy. If you only have one ovary removed it is called a unilateral oophorectomy (bilateral if you have both removed).
Along with hysterectomies (removal of the uterus), oophorectomies are another common gynecological surgery. According to recent data, from 2000–2014 there were 809,905 hysterectomies and 257,573 oophorectomies recorded. Over the same time period, overall annual oophorectomy rates decreased from 166/100,000 to 134/100,000. The proportion of outpatient oophorectomy cases increased from 57% to 84%.
“There’s a chance that this procedure [specifically an oophorectomy] will cause an emotional reaction. If you have feelings of sadness or depression, consider seeing a therapist to help you work through it,” suggests a report from Healthline.
Perhaps a dangerous misconception about women’s reproductive organs is that women do not need them unless they plan to have kids. But our ovaries serve other functions beyond assisting with childbirth.
The ovaries are mainly responsible for producing estrogen and progesterone. Removal of the ovaries may affect estrogen and progesterone levels.
If you have both ovaries removed (a bilateral oophorectomy), this not only results in permanent infertility but also menopause (also, in this case, sometimes called surgical menopause) even if you are younger than the age of 58.
And although every woman will eventually go through menopause, early menopause increases the risk of depression, heart disease and osteoporosis.
According to the NIH, “estrogen increases the effects of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are thought to be the neurotransmitters most related to the physiologic cause of depression.”
So a drop in estrogen levels has been associated with depression.
The American Heart Association also confirms that estrogen levels may play a role in a woman’s risk of developing heart disease.
“A decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase among post-menopausal women. Estrogen is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible. That means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow.”
And in regards to osteoporosis...
“There is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis,” reports Cleveland Clinic.
“After menopause, bone resorption (breakdown) overtakes the building of new bone. Early menopause (before age 45) and any long phases in which the woman has low hormone levels and no or infrequent menstrual periods can cause loss of bone mass.”
Another report from John Hopkins Medicine discusses how ovary removal in younger women has been linked to bone thinning and arthritis.
“Estrogens help protect the body from aging and age-related disease, and physicians and epidemiologists over the past two decades have linked their premature loss to increased risks of parkinsonism, dementia, arthritis, and the brittle-bone condition known as osteoporosis,” the report says.
A decrease in estrogen levels may also lead to an increase in total body fat and a decrease in lean body mass. And a change in hormones, may also increase the risk of developing other mood disorders in addition to depression.
Now this does not mean that women cannot live without their ovaries and lower hormone levels. Afterall, menopause is inevitable and some young women may need their ovaries removed in order to treat ovarian cancer, an ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis and other issues.
So one of the most important actions you can take whether you have gone through menopause due to aging or surgery, is to make sure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to effectively combat the effects of menopause.
One way to determine whether you are doing a good job in providing your body with the nutrients it needs is to get a nutrient test. This test will identify nutrient imbalances or deficiencies and allow you to work with a competent healthcare professional to address these imbalances through diet, quality supplements or appropriate medications.
Finally, the tragic story of this woman who had her ovaries removed without consent is a reminder to us all how important the patient-doctor relationship is. She trusted her doctor, as most of us do. But doctors are humans too and can make mistakes.
This case may be rare. However, it is always important to be proactive about your health by educating yourself about the health issues you may be facing. Tell your doctor what your expectations and concerns are if you have to have surgery. Ask appropriate questions, so you can make an informed decision.
An informed patient is a healthier patient.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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