In the months following your surgery, you may discover that weight gain after hysterectomy may become an issue.
Quite a few women find they gain a considerable amount of weight in the first year following their hysterectomy. Typical is that the majority of those women believes that the weight gain was uncontrollable. Insisting it happened without them changing their dietary habits or physical activities.
That brings us to some commonly asked questions:
- Do all women gain weight after a hysterectomy?
- How much weight can you expect to gain?
- Can you avoid putting on weight after a hysterectomy?
The fact that women are more at risk of gaining weight after a hysterectomy is not a myth. The research is conflicting with some showing increased weight and others showing no change.
This study compared the weight gain of women undergoing a hysterectomy before menopause and a control group of women without a hysterectomy. They reported that 23% of the women gained more than 10 pounds in weight during the first year where only 15% of women in the control group gained weight during this period. However, the study was not very large which could have introduced bias.
Important to note is that women who are already over-weight or struggle to keep a healthy weight before this surgery may be even at a greater risk.
Do you still gain weight if you keep your ovaries?
To what extent keeping your ovaries will protect you from gaining weight is not very clear. According to this study, women with both ovaries removed gained more weight compared to women that kept the ovaries and the ones that went through natural menopause.
But this study shows that even if you are able to keep your ovaries your risk that they fail to function is twice as high as in women with the uterus intact.
Armed with this information let’s see why it happens and if there is anything you can do to avoid this undesirable extra weight.
5 reasons for weight gain after hysterectomy
1. Your metabolic rate slows down
When a woman’s body matures she starts to lose muscle and her body does require lesser calories to function properly. When she continues to eat the same amount of food the extra calories will be stored as fat. After a hysterectomy, this process of declining metabolic rate may go much faster. This often results in a sudden weight gain after hysterectomy.
2. Inactivity after Surgery
The results of a survey from the HERs foundation show us that approx 70 to 80 % of the 1000 women that were interviewed complained about profound fatigue and lack of energy. The first few weeks you are forced to rest a lot and give your body time to mend.
But even after the first 6 weeks, many women struggle with tiredness and lack of stamina. The truth is that it may take up to a year to get your stamina back. Logically if you feel this way you will be less active and it is easy to gain weight after a hysterectomy.
3. Sex hormones drop
Before a hysterectomy estrogen is mainly produced in the ovaries. After a hysterectomy, your body will still produce small amounts which are produced in the adrenal glands, brain, and fat tissue.
The findings of a new research published by the America Diabetes Association confirm that estrogen has an effect on the amount of body fat and how and where it is stored. Unfortunately, after a hysterectomy, most of it goes around the mid-section. The main concern is that an increase in visceral fat, the fat surrounding your abdominal organs, will put women at risk of other health problems like diabetes, coronary disease and certain types of cancer.
Testosterone is also a hormone that is made in small amounts in the ovaries. Testosterone deficiency after hysterectomy may cause weight gain after hysterectomy as it is responsible for bone loss, reduced muscle mass and a decrease in fat metabolism. Losing muscle mass means that your body will burn fewer calories and store the rest in the body as fat.
Some women suffer from depression or anxiety after hysterectomy and are therefore more likely to put on weight. Some may lose interest in food and lose weight. Others try to find emotional relief through bad food choices and overeating. This will cause them to put on a significant amount of weight after the hysterectomy.
You have to find a way to get out of this vicious circle of bing-eating and feeling bad. Try to reduce stress with exercises like yoga or go out walking. And make sure the “bad food” is not readily available all the time. For example, you can fill the fridge with fruits and vegetables instead of junk food.
5.Pain post surgery
Aching joints, pelvic pain, can occur after a hysterectomy. The results of a nation-wide questionnaire report that 32 percent complain about chronic pain 1 year after their hysterectomy surgery. Any type of pain after hysterectomy can make women stop from being physically active. It may help to talk to your doctor to find the cause of your pain or ask for pain medication.
Getting back in your normal pattern of activities is crucial if you don’t want to gain weight after a hysterectomy. Walking the dog, gardening, cycling or swimming may seem insignificant exercises when it comes to weight loss but can make a huge difference in the first year post-op.
How to prevent weight gain after a total hysterectomy?
1. Daily exercise
You have to realize that fighting weight gain after hysterectomy will be an ongoing battle. It is important to make the necessary lifestyle changes after this surgery. This means you will have to put some kind of exercise in your daily routine. Even if you never have done any exercise before, make an effort to find an activity you like.
If you are unsure when you can begin to exercise after a hysterectomy or which exercises you have to avoid in the beginning, check out our post about exercise after hysterectomy.
2. A nutritious and balanced diet
Again and again, it surprises me how little information doctors provide on this topic before women have a hysterectomy.
For one, how important it is to make healthy food choices. This will not just prevent that you gain a lot of weight but will also protect women from future health problems like osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Both exercise and eating a balanced and nutritious diet are essential for managing weight and coping with the symptoms that come with surgical menopause.
Reviewed by: Kimberly Langdon M.D. (OB/GYN)
Date reviewed: 17/3/2019
Read more in our posts:
- Post hysterectomy weight loss and how to do it right.
- My remarkable weight loss after hysterectomy with intermittent fasting