A hysterectomy can help treat conditions including cancer, endometriosis and growths in the uterus. Though you can gain or lose weight after a hysterectomy, there are ways to manage your weight and help you feel your best after the surgery.
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Hysterectomies are also used to treat conditions like pelvic organ prolapse, adenomyosis and bladder or intestinal blockages, according to Stanford Health Care. There are several types of hysterectomies, including:
- Total hysterectomy: Your cervix and uterus are removed
- Hysterectomy with oophorectomy: Your uterus, one or both ovaries and possibly fallopian tubes are removed
- Radical hysterectomy: Your uterus, cervix and surrounding tissue, the top portion of your vagina and sometimes the pelvic lymph nodes are removed
- Supracervical hysterectomy: Only your uterus is removed
While hysterectomies may lead to side effects like weight loss or gain, the procedure can effectively ease or eliminate symptoms of your underlying condition and improve your overall quality of life, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Here are the reasons why a hysterectomy can affect your weight, plus tips to help you temper post-hysterectomy weight gain.
Everybody's hysterectomy recovery is different, so talk to your doctor about your side effects — weight gain or otherwise — and how to safely manage them after your surgery.
1. Hormonal Imbalances
So, does having a hysterectomy cause weight gain? Well, not directly.
But if your ovaries are removed during your hysterectomy, you'll experience a sudden drop in female hormones like estrogen and progesterone, per the Mayo Clinic. This hormonal decline will send you into surgical menopause regardless of your age, which can contribute to weight gain in your abdomen, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Per the National Health Service (NHS), surgical menopause can also cause all the same symptoms as natural menopause, including:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Trouble sleeping
- Night sweats
Some of these symptoms — like poor sleep and fatigue — can lead to habits like extra snacking or eating more foods with added sugar, both of which can also contribute weight gain after a hysterectomy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The hormonal changes of surgical menopause can lead to depression, according to the NHS. And depression — or other mood changes like increased stress or anxiety — may trigger dietary changes that contribute to weight gain, like eating more or having food cravings for high-calorie snacks after your hysterectomy, per October 2017 research in Menopause.
Per the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), other symptoms of depression may include:
- Prolonged fatigue
- Low energy
- Loss of interest in your usual activities
- Irritability or agitation
- Trouble sleeping
- Decreased sex drive
If you're experiencing symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, visit your doctor to get help, according to the NAMS.
3. Lack of Activity
You may feel tired and week for up to six weeks after your hysterectomy, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — after all, you're recovering from a major surgery. That's why resting often and taking frequent naps is important as you heal.
This lack of activity may cause you to gain weight after a hysterectomy, according to the Mayo Clinic. But taking walks and doing gentle stretches can help you move your body without compromising rest, per the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. As a bonus, that light activity may also help you recover more quickly.
4. Appetite Changes
People who have gone through menopause (surgical or natural) are more likely to have a larger appetite than people who have not, which may make them more susceptible to weight gain, according to the Menopause research.
On the flip side, you may have a decreased appetite while you recover from your surgery, which can lead to weight loss, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Fortunately, your appetite should return as you heal, so this weight loss is often temporary.
If your appetite doesn't return after a month or so, talk to your doctor to determine the cause of your suppressed appetite and discuss how to get enough nutrients, per the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
How to Manage Your Weight After a Hysterectomy
Though you can gain weight after a hysterectomy, there are ways to manage your weight after surgery. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you recover.
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
Manage your weight (and overall wellbeing) after surgery by eating a nutritious diet. You'll typically stick to liquids and soft foods in the days after your hysterectomy to go easy on your digestive tract while your body starts to heal, according to the University of Utah Health.
- Legumes like beans, peas and lentils
- Whole grains like whole-wheat bread and brown rice
- Nuts and nut butters
- Meat like chicken and turkey
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Soy products like tofu and tempeh
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
- Oils like flaxseed oil, avocado oil and sesame oil
2. Exercise Regularly
Moving your body can also help mitigate hysterectomy weight gain. During your first two months or so of recovery, stick to light activity like walks and stretching, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
But once your doctor clears you to resume exercise, a combination of cardio activities and strength training can help you manage your weight, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines recommend adults do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of intense cardio) and at least two strength training sessions per week, including activities such as:
3. Try Hormone Replacement Therapy
If you're experiencing weight gain and other side effects of surgical menopause, your doctor may use hormone replacement therapy to ease your symptoms, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Hormone replacement therapy involves taking supplements of hormones like estrogen and progesterone to replace some of those lost when your ovaries were removed during surgery, per the NHS. Work with your doctor to determine if this treatment is right for you and, if so, what dosage is best.
Hormone replacement therapy is not recommended for people who have had a hormone-dependent conditions, like certain types of breast cancer or liver disease, according to the NHS.
- Mayo Clinic: "Hysterectomy"
- Stanford Health Care: "What Is Hysterectomy?"
- National Health Service: "Hysterectomy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread"
- Menopause: "Depressive Symptoms and Weight in Midlife Women: The Role of Stress Eating and Menopausal Status"
- North American Menopause Society: "Depression & Menopause"
- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: "Recovering from your hysterectomy"
- University of Utah Health: "Eating After Surgery"
- UCLA Health: "Hysterectomy"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"