What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus. It’s done to treat a variety of conditions, from cancer to endometriosis. The surgery can cause a range of side effects. Without a uterus, for example, you can’t get pregnant. You’ll also stop menstruating.

But does it have any effect on your weight? Having a hysterectomy doesn’t cause weight loss directly. However, depending on the underlying condition it’s treating, some people might experience weight loss that’s not necessarily related to the procedure itself.

Read on to learn more about the potential effects of a hysterectomy on weight.

Weight loss isn’t a side effect of a hysterectomy. Some people experience a few days of nausea following a major surgery. This can be a result of pain or a side effect of the anesthesia. For some, this can make it hard to keep food down, resulting in temporary weight loss.

The misconception that a hysterectomy leads to weight loss may be linked to the use of hysterectomies to treat several types of cancer, including:

In some cases, this surgery is used in conjunction with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy has a number of side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. Some people may mistake chemotherapy-related weight loss for a side effect of a hysterectomy.

Hysterectomies also help to reduce chronic pain and heavy bleeding caused by fibroids, endometriosis, and other conditions. When these symptoms resolve after surgery, you might find that you have a lot more energy for physical activity, potentially leading to weight loss.

If you’ve recently had a hysterectomy and lost a lot of weight, follow up with your doctor, especially if you can’t think of any other factors that may be causing it.

While a hysterectomy isn’t directly linked to weight loss, it may be related to weight gain in some people. A 2009 prospective study suggests that premenopausal women who’ve had a hysterectomy without the removal of both ovaries have a higher risk for weight gain, compared with women who haven’t had the surgery. More research is needed to fully understand the potential link between hysterectomies and weight gain.

If you do have your ovaries removed during the procedure, you’ll immediately enter menopause. This process can last for several years, but women gain an average of 5 pounds after going through menopause.

You might also gain some weight as you recover from the procedure. Depending on the approach your doctor uses, you’ll need to avoid any strenuous activity for four to six weeks. You can still move around during this time, but you’ll want to hold off on any major exercise. If you’re used to exercising regularly, this break could have a temporary impact on your weight.

To reduce your risk of gaining weight after a hysterectomy, ask your doctor about the safety of physical activity. Depending on your recovery from the procedure and your overall health, you may be able to start doing low-impact exercises after a few weeks. Swimming and water aerobics are ideal exercises that can usually be resumed within two to three weeks, provided that vaginal bleeding and discharge have stopped. If you build up gradually, you can expect to be back to previous activity levels within four to six weeks. Other examples of low impact exercises include:

  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • walking
  • cycling
  • rowing
  • pilates

It’s also important to focus on your diet after a surgery — both to avoid weight gain and to support your body as it heals. Try to limit junk foods while you recover. When possible, swap them out for:

  • whole grains
  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • lean protein sources

Also keep in mind that a hysterectomy is major surgery, so try to cut yourself some slack and focus on your recovery. You’ll be feeling better within a few weeks, even if you gain a few pounds in the process.

A hysterectomy can have several side effects that aren’t related to your weight. If you still had your period before your hysterectomy, you’ll stop getting it after your surgery. You also can’t get pregnant after a hysterectomy. The loss of both fertility and mensuration is a benefit to some. But for others, it can cause a sense of loss. Here’s one woman’s take on feeling grief after a hysterectomy.

If you go into menopause after the procedure, you might also experience:

  • insomnia
  • hot flashes
  • mood swings
  • vaginal dryness
  • decreased sex drive

The procedure itself can also cause short-term side effects, such as:

  • pain at the incision site
  • swelling, redness, or bruising at the incision site
  • burning or itching near the incision
  • a numb feeling near the incision or down your leg

These should gradually decrease and eventually disappear as you recover.

There’s no connection between hysterectomy and weight loss. Any weight loss noticed after a hysterectomy probably has an unrelated cause. Always talk to your doctor about any unintentional weight loss, as there could be an underlying condition at play.