Thousands of women undergo hysterectomies every year. While it is a fairly common and potentially lifesaving procedure, some women who have had a hysterectomy develop depression. Depression after hysterectomy can occur for a number of reasons, and can negatively impact a woman's quality of life. Keep reading to find out more about hysterectomies and the risk factors for depression.
What Is a Hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is an operation where some or all of a woman's internal reproductive organs are removed. It is normally a last resort option since it is very invasive and can have unpleasant side effects, but possible reasons for having such a procedure include fibroids, endometriosis, or cancer of the womb, ovaries, or cervix. There are four types of hysterectomy:
The womb and cervix are removed, leaving the fallopian tubes and ovaries intact. This is the most common type.
Just the womb is removed, leaving the cervix in place. Some women prefer this, as they need cervical stimulation to feel sexual satisfaction.
Total with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
Parts removed are the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
The womb, fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands, and fatty tissue are all removed. This operation is normally only carried out in response to life-threatening illnesses, such as aggressive cancer.
Risk of Depression
After a hysterectomy, women who have not been through menopause already are likely to experience menopause symptoms, including depression. Some studies and medical observations suggest that around 50% of women who undergo the operation suffer from depression after hysterectomy, and a quarter of those will require specialist intervention. The reasons for depression are numerous, and some are listed below:
Sudden drop in estrogen levels
Estrogen's main function is to regulate the reproductive cycle, but it also has an effect on other areas of the body too, including the part of the brain that is responsible for mood. If estrogen levels drop without warning and the body has not had time to adjust to the sudden lack of the hormone, it should come as no surprise that a woman's mood dips for a while and she develops depression after hysterectomy.
Previous psychological state
If a woman has previously suffered from depression or other psychological conditions, she is more likely to be susceptible to depression after hysterectomy. This could be due to the fact that her body is responding to the hormonal imbalances, or that she is more likely to be focusing on the perceived negative aspects of the operation.
No psychological preparation for the operation
Women who were ill-informed about the procedure or who had little or no say in deciding to operate are far more likely to develop depression after a hysterectomy. Furthermore, hysterectomies themselves are often performed because of serious or life threatening conditions, and this can contribute to feelings of lack of control and frailty.
The aftercare seems just as important, and this goes beyond physical health: women who seek post-surgical counseling or psychotherapy are less likely to suffer from negative psychological effects.
Depression affects many women, and it is important to deal with the conditions as soon as symptoms become noticeable. Early intervention can be the difference between the depression developing into a clinical condition or disappearing altogether. If your doctor has recommended a hysterectomy, it is crucial to ask as many questions as you can and find out about the procedure in order to protect against developing depression.