A total hysterectomy is removal of the uterus and cervix and does not include the ovaries. “Hormonally, nothing will change at all,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University. Women will no longer have menstrual periods and cannot get pregnant, but menopause will not occur.
“Girls in America are developing at younger ages and it's becoming common for 9 and 10-year-old girls to get their first periods,” says Streicher. "But this doesn't mean they will go into menopause at a younger age." The best menopause predictor is your mother's age of onset. If she went through it early, chances are, so will you. You can thank genetics.
The average time period during which a woman experiences hot flashes is two years. However, it is possible to be an outlier. According to Streicher, 20 percent of women will experience life-long hot flashes, and others will have shorter spans. Streicher recommends estrogen therapy to get rid of them.
Many women experience vaginal dryness after menopause and need relief. Moisturizers, such as Replens, are for when women are not having intercourse and can provide reprieve for up to 3 days. Conversely, lubricants should be used at the time of intercourse and choosing a good one can make all the difference, says Streicher. “The majority of lubricants on the market are water-based, but finding a silicone-based lubricant will yield better results.” Streicher recommends Uberlube. For women with constant dryness, a combination of Replens and Uberlube is the closest to a cure, she says.
“Your ovaries can still kick in for one last hoorah,” says Streicher. Wait 12 months before considering yourself done. And be aware that menstruating after not having your period for over 12 months is most likely bleeding, not a period; consult your doctor immediately.
Statistics show the smoking can cause menopause to kick in two years earlier than normal, says Streicher. This is important for women who are trying to get pregnant. “If they’re smokers, they could reach infertility sooner,” says Streicher.
Graying hair and menopause are completely unrelated, says Streicher because ovaries and silver strands are not affected by each other. You can start graying at a young age, but menopause will not come for years.
Low estrogen levels do not cause weight gain, but they do cause weight re-distribution. “Women may notice more fat in their mid-section as a result,” says Streicher. Women may also experience weight gain due to changing metabolisms. This is a common occurrence for women who around the age they should be experiencing menopause, but the two are unrelated.
Low estrogen levels cause a decrease in skin collagen, which leads to saggy skin. Although it is not recommended as a direct treatment, women who use estrogen treatments have experienced less or delayed wrinkling, says Streicher.
Post-menopausal ovaries continue to produce testosterone. The levels decline over time and eventually there is essentially no ovarian production of testosterone. “Fortunately, the adrenal glands continue to produce androgens,” says Streicher, which keep your sex drive revved after menopause.
“Hundreds of years ago women's life expectancy was so much shorter that it wasn't unusual to die before reaching menopause or shortly after,” says Streicher. Now, women live years after menopause which is why it is so important to take measures that will help you continue to feel good and be productive.