Every year over 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the United States. Many women who are dealing with gynecological issues are told this is the treatment for their condition but the fact is that the significant majority of these hysterectomies are unnecessary.
The typical patient demographic for a hysterectomy is young, premenopausal women of color under the age of 40. There are many side effects associated with undergoing a hysterectomy at any age but the risks for serious side effects are elevated for women who are under the age of 50; and increase in severity the younger the woman is.
Some side effects are commonly known, while other researchers are still trying to figure them out. One that falls into the last category is how weight gain and hysterectomy are related. Many women ask “Will I gain weight after a hysterectomy?”
Do You Gain Weight After A Hysterectomy?
The answer is most women gain some weight after a hysterectomy. But this is also true for anyone who has undergone any type of surgery that requires limited activity and sedentary living for six to eight weeks or more.
There has been a minimal amount of research studying the correlation between hysterectomy and weight gain but a study published in 2009 showed a possible relationship between women who had a hysterectomy and both ovaries removed and possible weight gain. Until more research is conducted to support this theory, we can draw our own conclusion based on anecdotal information and common sense.
What Causes Weight Gain After A Hysterectomy?
There can be several contributing factors that may cause a woman to gain weight after a hysterectomy.
- Early Onset of Menopause
- Removing the uterus and both ovaries will bring on menopause immediately and in women where the ovaries are left intact, ⅓ of them will also immediately enter menopause. The remainder will most likely fail within 5 years resulting in the early onset of menopause for these women..
Menopause can bring with it several unpleasant symptoms due to the decrease in estrogen. One of the natural results of estrogen loss is weight gain and women typically notice a weight gain of around 5 pounds.
Women can be offered synthetic HRT (hormone replacement therapy) after having a hysterectomy and most women will report that they gained weight after beginning HRT. This weight gain may have coincided with the normal weight gain of menopause or it may be unrelated.
- Lack Of Physical Exercise While Recovering From Surgery
- After undergoing any major surgery, your body needs time to recover. You will be forced to deviate from your normal routine and will have to take it easy for a while. This means that if you are a person who routinely goes to the gym every day and consistently eats a low-calorie diet, you are likely to put on at least a few pounds.
The typical recovery time after having a hysterectomy is about 6-8 weeks. During this time, you will be required to rest and will not be able to exercise or do anything strenuous. So basically you are laying around and eating. Most people gain weight when they eat more calories than they burn.
- Depression After Surgery
- Some women become depressed after having a hysterectomy (similar to male castration) and many women eat to comfort themselves. The things they eat are not usually healthy and can lead to weight gain. Also, women who are prescribed antidepressants are subject to weight gain as this is a well-known side effect of many common antidepressants.
- Stress After Surgery
- Women often experience increased levels of stress after undergoing a hysterectomy. Their stress may relate to their jobs, the physical changes they are going through because of the surgery, or the fact that they temporarily can not perform their normal routine in their household so they feel things are out of control. Stress releases the hormone cortisol which triggers the body to store fat and as a result gain weight.
- Normal Lifestyle Habits
- Many women lead busy hectic lives and do not possess the most healthy eating or lifestyle habits, to begin with. Their normal activity may be just enough to even things out as far as their weight is concerned but surgery slows them down and they gain weight during their recovery.
Is There An Alternative To Hysterectomy That Won’t Cause Weight Gain?
Depending on the reason behind a hysterectomy diagnosis, patients may have other options. Hysterectomy is performed most often as a treatment for uterine fibroids which are non-cancerous tumors that grow in the uterus. Fibroids (also known as myomas) can cause many unpleasant symptoms including heavy prolonged menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and pressure, infertility, pain during sex, anemia, and more.
Uterine fibroids can be treated completely without any surgery and without losing the uterus. This remarkable procedure is called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). Fibroids need a blood supply to remain viable and UFE cuts off this blood supply during a 30-40-minute in-office procedure. Patients return home that same day with just a bandaid.
There is no hospital, no surgical incision, there are no sutures, and the recovery time is only about 5-7 days. The uterus is not removed so the side effects associated with a hysterectomy do not come into play.
If you have uterine fibroids or adenomyosis and have been told you need a hysterectomy, please contact The Atlanta Fibroid Center today and set up a consultation. Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout have the most UFE experience in the Southeast and are ready to help you today.
When facing a decision as significant as major surgery that may be unnecessary, getting a second option is always a good idea. Contact us today to learn more about UFE and how it might help you.