Depression After Hysterectomy
It's been a month since her hysterectomy and my wife seems so sad all the time. I thought the surgery was supposed to make her life better. What's wrong?
Many women experience a change in their emotions after their hysterectomy. Studies have shown that most women enjoy a better mood, quality of life, and sexual, psychological, and social functioning following their hysterectomy. A high percentage of women who have problems with anxiety or depression before their hysterectomy find that, with their improved physical health after the surgery, their previous depressed feelings go away.
However, some women, including those with no past history of depression or anxiety, feel sad after their hysterectomy. A woman's emotions are often based on her beliefs about the importance of her uterus, her fears about her health or personal relationships after a hysterectomy, and concerns about her enjoyment of sexual activities after surgery. Grieving the loss of childbearing ability is very common after a hysterectomy, even for those who never wanted to give birth, or who had previously felt their family was complete. In most cases, as a post-op hysterectomy patient’s physical healing progresses, and her life gradually gets back to normal, her feelings of sadness fade away. As time passes, she starts to feel “like her former self” again, and her emotional health returns to normal. However, those who experience a long-lasting, persistent low mood, should see their physician for a depression evaluation.
The disease of depression is much more than just a temporary grieving or a bout with the blues. Depression is a medical disorder with a biological and chemical basis. Depression affects a person’s thoughts, moods, feelings, behavior and even physical health. People used to think it was "all in your head" and that if you really tried, you could "snap out of it" or just "get over it." But doctors now know that depression is not a weakness, and it's not something you can treat on your own.
Doctors don’t know for certain what causes depression, and doubt that there is single cause that applies to all patients. It is an illness that often runs in families. People of all ages and races suffer from depression. Depression may commence spontaneously with no identifiable specific cause. It may happen only once in a person's lifetime, or it may occur as repeated episodes, with depression-free periods in between.. It also may be a chronic condition, requiring ongoing treatment over a lifetime.
Experts believe a genetic vulnerability combined with environmental factors, such as stress or physical illness, may trigger an imbalance in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, resulting in depression. Imbalances in three neurotransmitters — serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine — seem to be linked to depression.
Hormonal changes may be a contributing factor to developing this imbalance, and a period of hormonal disruption usually occurs even for hysterectomy patients who kept their ovaries. Those patients may find that their low mood lifts after their ovaries return to normal functioning. For women who had their ovaries removed, improvement in mood may occur after HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) begins.
Medications are available that are safe and effective, even for the most severe cases. With proper treatment, most people with depression improve, often within weeks, and can return to normal daily activities.
As part of the post-surgery follow-up care they provide, at her medical appointments, physicians should inquire about their hysterectomy patients’ moods and emotions, and evaluate and treat any condition of this nature appropriately. If your wife seems depressed, encourage her to share her feelings with her doctor. Help is available, so there is no reason she should continue to suffer.