Since You Asked: Ovaries – is one the same as two?

Question:  I lost one of my ovaries due to a benign ovarian cyst in 2019. I’m having a very difficult time finding medical studies on the effect of losing one ovary on a woman’s long-term physical, sexual, and emotional health.  None of the doctors I have talked to have personally looked at these studies.  They patronize me by saying “well, you still have one ovary left, so there’s no need to worry.” Can you help me find reliable information? 

Answer:  We agree that women’s ovaries are too often seen as disposable.  Imagine if physicians said to males “well, you still have one testicle left, so you’ll be fine”.  I don’t think so!  

Since you’re looking for medical studies, we recommend using the PubMed search tool maintained by the National Library of Medicine. PubMed connects to an enormous database of medical articles.  Searching is free, and you’ll typically find lots of relevant articles.  Some publishers charge a fee for access to the complete article, but short summaries are almost always included in the results of a PubMed search.

Simple searches are easy to do.  Just enter the condition (or the key concept) you’re trying to research.  In this case, we started with “unilateral ovariectomy”.  Add a filter for studies in humans.  (It’s kind of amazing how many studies have been done on cows and pigs!).  And then scroll through the results. 

Right away we found a couple of articles that may be of interest to you – and you might want to share them with your doctors, too.  For example, one study compared 50 women who had one ovary removed for a benign condition before menopause with 50 women who went through natural menopause.  The study found that the women who had an ovary removed didn’t do as well women with two ovaries on memory tests conducted many years later.  That doesn’t prove that ovary removal caused the difference, but it’s important.  

Another study looked at the experience of 23,580 women in Norway and found that the women who had one ovary removed went through menopause about a year earlier than the women who still had both ovaries when they went through menopause.  Again, that doesn’t prove that the ovary removal caused earlier menopause, but it’s interesting.

Best of luck searching.  Here’s a link to the PubMed FAQ page, which has lots of helpful tips.