Weight Goes Up With Menopause

Hysterectomies and natural menopause mark an increase in body mass index among women

(RxWiki News) Hot flashes are just part of the transition in middle-aged women as they hit menopause.

New research shows that women who have their uterus removed or who start menopause naturally can gain a little weight.

The extra weight could put women at risk of being overweight, accompanying the other physical and emotional changes hitting these women during the transition.

"Exercise to manage weight gain."

Researchers, led by Carrie Gibson, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, aimed to see whether middle-aged women gain more weight after having a hysterectomy compared to having menopause naturally.

Over a 10-year span, researchers measured women's body mass indexes (BMI), which accounts for their body weight in relation to their height.

They gathered information from 1,962 women from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Participants were between 42- and 52-years-old, not pregnant and had at least one intact ovary.

Researchers' focus was on changes in the women's BMI before and after menopause, as well as after having a hysterectomy.

Along with the hysterectomy, 76 patients kept their ovaries and another 106 had one or more ovaries removed.

Women who already had a hysterectomy due to cancer were excluded.

The authors surveyed women on their menopausal status, level of physical activity, how they rated their own health, hormone therapy use, and their last doctor's visit before their final menstrual period (FMP, or menopause that happens naturally) or surgery.

They also looked at the patients' age, education, race and antidepressant use.

At different sites across the country, researchers measured each participant's BMI annually.

In their study, researchers found more than 90 percent of women reached menopause naturally.

Another 5.5 percent of women had their uterus and ovaries removed, and the remaining 4 percent had just their uterus taken out.

And in all cases, BMIs went up as they ceased their period.

BMI did increase more rapidly among women who had their uterus and ovaries removed, compared to those who had menopause naturally and who kept their ovaries.

There was no significant difference however in how the BMIs changed among the groups.

"Weight gain is common in midlife and may be accelerated in midlife women following surgery," the authors wrote in their report.

"This weight gain may confer increased risks for obesity-related diseases in the postmenopausal period."

The authors note the effects of having a hysterectomy in younger women may be different from those experienced by middle-aged women.

In addition, those who participated in their study may not be representative of all who have a hysterectomy.

The Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Training Grant from the National Institute of Health funded the study.

The study was published online September 25 in the International Journal of Obesity. The authors don't declare any conflicts of interest. 

Review Date: 
November 1, 2012