If you are reading this, you or someone you know may have been told they need to have a hysterectomy and also have their ovaries removed. This has been a controversial issue for many years, but until recently most doctors recommended removal of the ovaries after about age 45. The reason for this was that removal of the ovaries would prevent women from developing ovarian cancer. However, this recommendation ignored some of the obvious, and not so obvious, benefits of women keeping their ovaries. As we describe below, the ovaries continue to produce hormones for many years after menopause and these hormones have many health benefits, as well as benefits for improved mood, prevention of vaginal dryness, preservation of skin tone and elasticity.
Significantly, the ovaries produce hormones long after menopause. Estrogen continues to be produced in small amounts, about 25 percent of normal pre-menopausal levels. Testosterone is another hormone normally produced by the ovary and the ovary continues to make testosterone for about 30 years after menopause. Muscle, skin and fat cells change testosterone into estrogen, so the ovary continues to make estrogen this way for many, many years. This source of estrogen appears to be responsible for the lower risks of heart disease and osteoporosis that have been found in the studies of women who still have their ovaries.