The ovaries are almond shaped glands in females that are responsible for producing the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The ovaries also hold the follicles that produce the eggs for potential fertilisation. There are several reasons why both or just one ovary may be removed. Health conditions such as endometriosis or the development of a large cyst may warrant removal. An abscess or the risk of cancer may also prompt a physician to consider the removal of an ovary.
One or both ovaries are removed through a surgical procedure known as an oophorectomy or an ovariectomy. An oophorectomy that removes two ovaries is known as a bilateral oopheroctomy; a single ovary removal is referred to as a unilateral oopheroctomy. According to the Mayo Clinic, the surgeon performs the procedure under anesthetic. The surgery can be either an open procedure or a laparoscopy, depending on the situation.
The Other Ovary
Creighton University Medical Center explains that in most cases of unilateral oopherectomy, the ovary that remains takes over the duties of the ovary that was removed. What this means is that the lone ovary produces the same amount of oestrogen that was produced when there were two ovaries, and it also produces the eggs for fertilisation. Normally, ovulation occurs on alternating sides each month, but after unilateral oopherectomy, ovulation occurs on the same side on a monthly basis.
It is still possible to conceive a child, even with a single ovary. Magicalia Parenting reports that because the single ovary takes over for the missing ovary, the ovulation that must take place for a woman to become pregnant still occurs. However, complications such as uterine adhesions or Fallopian tube damage (which can develop as a result of surgery) may cause a slight decrease in the level of a woman's fertility.
Women who are having difficulty becoming pregnant because of an injury that occurred during the removal of an ovary may be given injections of GnRHa (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist) and HMG (human menopausal gonadotrophin). Both of these hormones help to induce ovulation. According to the Oxford Journals, women who have only one ovary are less responsive to this form of forced ovulation. However, a study conducted by Amir Lass, Moses Paul, Raul Margara and Robert M. L.Winston of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London, shows that the pregnancy rate of women who have one ovary is the same as that of women who have both ovaries intact.
Women who have had one ovary removed may experience early menopause. Menopause usually occurs in women who are over the age of 50. According to OBGYN.net, the sole ovary usually does not produce any more follicles than it normally would. This reduction of follicles can lead to an early menopause scenario.