If you have had a hysterectomy and are experiencing hot flashes, know that you are not alone. Over 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the U.S., and while hot flash symptoms after your surgery may be intense and frustrating, there are management tools available to help.
Research shows that hot flashes and night sweats are almost twice as common in women who have had a hysterectomy, than those who are going through ‘natural’ menopause. How long you have them for and how you manage them will largely depend on the type of hysterectomy you have had, as well as your stage of life and other lifestyle factors.
In this article, we’ll take a look at hot flashes after a hysterectomy, and what management tools are available to you.
What are the different types of hysterectomy?
There are several types of hysterectomy that can be performed, depending on the reason for your surgery.
- Total hysterectomy: the uterus and cervix, but not the ovaries, are removed. This is the most common type of hysterectomy.
- Subtotal hysterectomy: the uterus, but not the cervix or ovaries, are removed. This type of hysterectomy is less common, as there is still a risk of cervical cancer if the cervix is left in place.
- Hysterectomy with oophorectomy: the uterus and cervix, and one or both of the ovaries, are removed.
- Hysterectomy with Salpingo-oophorectomy: the uterus, one or both of your ovaries, and your fallopian tubes are removed.
- Radical hysterectomy: the uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, part of your vagina, lymph glands, and fatty tissue are removed.
Will I enter menopause after a hysterectomy?
Whether or not you enter menopause after a hysterectomy will depend on the type of surgery you have.
Menopause begins when the body reduces (or stops) producing estrogen. Because your ovaries produce a large amount of your body’s estrogen, their removal through a radical hysterectomy, or a hysterectomy with oophorectomy, will trigger a sudden decrease in estrogen and lead to menopause. This is known as induced or surgical menopause.
If your hysterectomy doesn’t involve the removal of your ovaries, or only one ovary is removed, you won’t enter surgical menopause, but you are still likely to enter menopause within five years.
Even with both ovaries intact, don’t be surprised if, for a short time, you still experience menopause symptoms like hot flashes. This can happen because of the reduced blood flow to the ovaries, but should improve as you heal from the surgery.
If you are experiencing surgical menopause, you may experience other symptoms associated with a decrease in estrogen, not just hot flashes. These can include:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Mild anxiety and depression
- Sleeping difficulties
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
Compared to natural menopause, these symptoms, especially hot flashes, may be more frequent and severe than experienced in natural menopause.
Treating hysterectomy hot flashes
Fortunately, there are ways, both prescribed and natural, that can help you manage hot flashes after a hysterectomy. Here are a few of the most common and effective:
Hormone replacement therapy
Depending on your age, lifestyle, and the reason you have had a hysterectomy, your doctor may advise you to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This treatment replaces some of the hormones your ovaries would have produced to relieve your hot flashes and some of the other symptoms of menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes by up to 80%. However, it’s not suitable for everyone and has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer for women with a family history of the disease. It’s also not recommended in women with liver disease, or those at a higher risk of diseases such as heart attacks, breast cancer, strokes, or blood clots.
Your doctor will be able to advise you whether HRT is appropriate for you.
For women who can’t take HRT or would prefer not to take HRT, hypnotherapy is one of the most effective non-hormonal management tools currently available. It’s been shown to reduce hot flashes by up to 80% and can come with some welcome side effects such as improved quality of sleep, and reduced anxiety.
Hypnotherapy is a technique that involves focused relaxation techniques, and cooling visualizations to help you manage your internal temperature controls.
While hypnotherapy can be done in-person with a qualified therapist, it is now possible to have hot flashes hypnotherapy sessions delivered to you in the comfort of your home through an app.
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Your overall health and lifestyle can also influence the frequency and intensity of your post-hysterectomy hot flashes.
Some simple changes before and after surgery may help reduce your symptoms.
- Cut down or quit smoking: Smoking has been shown to worsen symptoms of menopause, as well as increase the risk of diseases that become more prevalent post-menopause, such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
- Cut down or abstain from alcohol: Alcohol consumption has been shown to worsen symptoms of menopause and can trigger hot flashes.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Apart from supporting your overall wellbeing, a healthy weight may also mean less frequent and severe hot flashes.
- Practice relaxation: Although meditation has not been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes, it does have benefits for your overall well-being and can help reduce stress and improve your sleep quality.
- Avoid ‘trigger’ foods or drinks: spicy foods or caffeinated drinks may trigger hot flashes. Try and monitor which foods and beverages trigger hot flashes.
- Dietary supplements: such as black cohosh, ginseng, dong quai may offer limited benefits for reducing hot flashes in some women. However, the evidence supporting the use of many of these herbal supplements is inconclusive.
The Wrap Up
Women who undergo hysterectomy may experience surgical menopause. Others may start menopause within five years of their surgery. Hot flashes are twice as likely for women who have undergone a hysterectomy and they can be more frequent and intense than for women experiencing natural menopause. Thankfully there are options available to help manage hot flashes after a hysterectomy including hormone replacement therapy, lifestyle changes, and hypnotherapy.