Recently I polled the lovely Divas in my community about what they were dying to know about PCOS. One recurring question was: Will my PCOS go away if my ovaries are removed?
This is a tricky question, and I will do my best to answer it usefully.
Like birth control, Metformin and Spironolactone, ovary removal and hysterectomy are sometimes given as “cures” for PCOS from traditional medical doctors like your family doctor, gynaecologist or endocrinologist.
As a holistic nutritionist, I whole-heartedly believe in the POWER of natural methods like food choices and lifestyle habits to reverse symptoms of PCOS. Some doctors may not agree, so let’s get to the debate.
Why Doctors Recommend Ovary Removal and Hysterectomy for PCOS
When I was diagnosed with PCOS, about a year after coming off the birth control pill, my gynaecologist recommended that I go back on birth control and take a drug called Metformin in order to “balance” my hormones. Being a nutrition school student and natural health advocate, I knew I didn’t want to use any drugs. She wasn’t completely on board, but ultimately it’s my choice what I do with my body (and it’s your choice, too).
As my case of PCOS wasn’t incredibly severe, her recommendations stopped at drugs. For some women with PCOS, their symptoms and condition is severe enough that doctors will recommend surgery, in the form of ovary removal (oophorectomy) or total hysterectomy (both ovaries and uterus are removed).
Both of these surgeries are incredibly invasive, and may or may not have the intended effect of reducing/“curing” PCOS symptoms.
Many women, beyond symptoms of androgen excess such as acne and facial hair, will also experience very painful and heavy periods. Doctors who recommend ovary removal or hysterectomy will often do it when these symptoms are present in addition to more “traditional” PCOS symptoms.
It’s important to note that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has said that about 70% of hysterectomies performed are not indicated based on the pathology or symptoms. That’s a lot of unnecessary surgery!
What Happens To Hormones and PCOS After Ovary Removal or Hysterectomy
As you may know, a big part of PCOS is an excess of androgen hormones, such as testosterone. Yes, it’s true that our ovaries produce very small amounts of androgen hormones, and so if we remove the ovaries, we shouldn’t have as much testosterone- right?
Well, that’s not entirely true. For example, your adrenal glands (aka stress response regulators) produce androgens as well, often in higher quantities than the ovaries. Additionally, an androgen hormone known as DHT or dihydrotestosterone is created at the tissue site (like a hair follicle, for example), with no ovarian involvement at all.
Secondly, many women with PCOS struggle with insulin resistance (even if they’re lean) and weight problems. Removing ovaries alone or performing a total hysterectomy is incredibly bad news for the metabolisms of women with PCOS. Because our metabolisms are often already slow, removing the ovaries will slow this down even further.
Estrogen is a major hormone produced in the ovaries, and when you remove the ovaries, you have drastically less estrogen. In a sense this could put women into immediate and early-onset menopause. Without enough estrogen, women with PCOS (and women in general) are at higher risk for things like heart disease and diabetes- diseases already at higher risk simply by having PCOS.
Libido may also disappear, abdominal weight gain could increase and mood and skin may not be favourably effected after ovary removal.
Will PCOS Go Away If My Ovaries Are Removed?
Short answer: Not really.
As you can see from the above, simply removing the ovaries or having a total hysterectomy doesn’t treat PCOS from the root cause. PCOS is a problem with multiple systems in the body and how they communicate, ovarian involvement is just one small piece.
Removing that piece of the puzzle simply leaves a gaping hole, leaving your adrenal glands, metabolism and other body glands and functions to compensate and potentially cause new and ugly symptoms, as well as exacerbating old or existing ones.
If your doctor has recommend removing your ovaries a hysterectomy or any other kind of surgery for you PCOS, I highly recommend getting a second opinion, and utilizing the easy strategies I’ve outlined below to begin reversing PCOS symptoms from the inside out.
It’s important to be well-informed (and now you are) and to stand up for yourself when making medical choices. You have about 90% control over how your PCOS manifests, and surgery is no quick fix. There are SO many other options to get rid of your annoying PCOS symptoms, in many cases surgery does not need to be considered.
Natural Alternatives to Ovary Removal and Hysterectomy for PCOS
There are so many amazing strategies to naturally alleviate frustrating and embarrassing symptoms of PCOS that choosing the right ones can be intensely frustrating and make women feel like surgery is simply an easier option.
I am challenging this by saying I’ve never taken a single drug for my PCOS, and my mission with The Hormone Diva is to help you learn and integrate easy strategies (the same ones I use today) to keep PCOS symptoms at bay.
A healthful, whole foods diet, regular movement, healthy stress management and some targeted supplementation are all important factors.
To help you utilize various strategies in a simple way, without guesswork, I have put together some really exciting, my Ultimate PCOS Checklist!
In this PCOS Checklist you’ll learn about PCOS-specfic superfoods to eat regularly, my fav PCOS supplements, tools, lotions and options, plus you’ll get an example of HOW to eat with a one-day meal plan. Everything you need (and nothing you don’t) to begin reversing your embarrassing PCOS symptoms naturally.
All you need to do is click the image below to grab your free copy of The Ultimate PCOS Checklist!