A new survey has found that a majority of women scheduled for gynaecologic surgery to address non-cancerous symptoms are not worried about the effects of the procedure on their sex lives.
On the other hand, a surprising 37 percent of women planning to be sterilized did express concern that they might have less sexual desire after the operation - even though that surgery does not affect hormone levels.
Among those in the study who were having reproductive organs surgically removed, fewer than 15 percent expressed concerns about sex.
Women scheduled for ovary removal were more likely to expect to lose sexual desire and enjoy sex less after surgery than were women scheduled for hysterectomies.
"Most women were not very concerned, and among any women who do have these worries, I think we can reassure them that they don't necessarily have to fear a detriment to sexual function," said Dr. Jonathan Schaffir, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.
"Some women who have their ovaries removed might have a decrease in hormone levels and might have a problem, but that is certainly not the rule," he added.
Ovary removal leads to menopause in women, which can be characterized by such symptoms as hot flashes, night sweats, sleeping difficulties, irritability and vaginal dryness, as well as the possibility of reduced interest in sex, Schaffir said.
He added that doctors could offer remedies, especially a variety of therapies to replace lost estrogens, for most of those symptoms.
Hysterectomy - removal of the uterus - and sterilization through tubal ligation or other, less invasive methods do not affect hormone levels.
Schaffir said the findings also pointed to differences in counseling proficiency between long-term attending physicians and medical residents.
This indicated that residents could benefit from additional training in how to address sexual function concerns with patients who are scheduled for these surgeries.
Schaffir and colleagues collected data over six months from women admitted for benign gynaecologic surgeries at Ohio State University Medical Center.
During that time, 150 women were admitted for eligible surgeries, and 75 women completed the surveys.
Overall, 10 percent of women having hysterectomy and 13 percent of women having oophorectomy thought they would have lower sexual desire following surgery, and 13 percent in each group agreed that they would feel less feminine after the procedures.
Surprisingly, 37 percent of women facing sterilization believed they would have less sexual desire after the procedure.
"The opposite is often true. And research has also been done that shows that women who have an effective method of contraception feel free to participate more sexually because they no longer have fear of pregnancy. These procedures don't change the hormone levels or the anatomy. So it's a little unclear where that fear might come from," he said.
The survey findings are detailed in a recent issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.