If your healthcare provider recommends a hysterectomy, you likely have questions about the procedure, its risks and benefits, and how to prepare. But what about what to expect after the hysterectomy? There are many types of hysterectomies, and a surgeon will use one of several techniques to perform this procedure. Below, we’ll cover tips to ease the recovery process and what to avoid after a hysterectomy.
The recovery time after a hysterectomy varies depending on the type of surgery, your age, and your overall health.
A hysterectomy may have a significant impact physically and emotionally. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider regarding any concerns you have.
While you recover, expect to balance resting and being active as much as possible. Plan to take frequent breaks to allow your body to rest, eat well-balanced meals, and ask family and friends for help.
During a hysterectomy, the surgeon removes your uterus, sometimes called the womb. The uterus is where the baby grows when you’re pregnant. Sometimes, structures attached to your uterus – like your fallopian tubes, ovaries, and cervix – are also removed.
A hysterectomy can be performed in one of several ways.
What to expect immediately after your hysterectomy
Depending on the type of hysterectomy, you may stay in the hospital for 1 or 2 days after the surgery. Some people remain in the hospital longer. Some laparoscopic or robotic hysterectomies are done on an outpatient basis, meaning you may go home the same day or within 23 hours of the surgery.
Immediately after your hysterectomy, you will be given pain medications. Your healthcare provider will help you understand what is expected and what is not.
You may have to urinate through a catheter at first, but this will be removed so you can urinate on your own – usually before you leave the hospital.
You will be urged to get up and walk as soon as possible after your surgery. This helps avoid blood clots and prevent constipation.
How long does it take to recover from a hysterectomy?
The average recovery time for an abdominal hysterectomy is 4 to 6 weeks.
A vaginal hysterectomy can take 3 to 4 weeks to recover.
It may take 2 to 4 weeks to recover from a laparoscopic or robotic hysterectomy.
A hysterectomy is a major surgery, and recovery takes time. In addition to the surgical technique used, your total recovery time may vary depending on several factors including your age and overall health before the surgery.
After the surgery, your healthcare provider will give you some restrictions and instructions on how to care for yourself. It’s important to follow these instructions carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand.
What changes should I expect after a hysterectomy?
Depending on the reason for the surgery, a hysterectomy can give you relief from the symptoms that made it necessary. Still, it can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
You will no longer have menstrual periods after a hysterectomy. If you had not already gone through menopause before the surgery, you might develop symptoms of menopause if your ovaries were removed.
Among other symptoms, menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, which may make having sex uncomfortable. A water-based vaginal lubricant may help. You may also discuss other options with your provider, like using an estrogen cream.
After a hysterectomy, you may also be at increased risk for other health issues like weak or brittle bones (osteoporosis) or heart disease if your ovaries were removed. Some people develop leakage of urine.
If your pelvic muscles weaken following a hysterectomy, your provider may recommend pelvic floor exercises.
Your emotional well-being may also be affected. Some people feel a sense of loss or depression after a hysterectomy. Talk to your healthcare provider or a mental health therapist about ways to manage these emotions. Participating in a hysterectomy support group might also provide comfort.
Sex life changes
While many people report no difference in their libido, and others say they have a better sex life after a hysterectomy, some women experience a loss of sexual desire. Your healthcare provider can discuss options to help your sex drive.
Tips for recovering from a hysterectomy
While you recover, there are steps that you can take to make the healing process – both physical and emotional – easier:
Rest. Plan to get plenty of rest and take naps as needed, but balance it with light exercises, like walking.
Go on walks. Leisurely walking is an excellent way to be physically active after a hysterectomy. Start with a short distance, listen to your body, and rest when needed. Moving around helps prevent blood clots and manage constipation.
Care for your incision. Your surgeon will give you instructions on how to care for your incision. Generally, the area should be kept clean and dry. Call your provider if you notice any redness, swelling, or oozing, or if the wound is opening.
Manage your pain. Stay ahead of your pain and take your pain medication as prescribed.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins, and stay well-hydrated. You may want to consider increasing your fiber intake. These will help you heal, prevent constipation, and give you energy as you recover.
Know when to call your surgeon. Your healthcare provider will give you a list of warning signs for which you’ll need to seek medical attention. Call your provider immediately if you have a fever, any heavy vaginal bleeding, pain that doesn’t get better, vomiting, diarrhea, a foul smell from your vagina, inability to urinate, or pain with urination. If you notice chest pain, inability to catch your breath, or pain in your calf, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately.
Reach out to others. Allow others to help you around the house as you recover.
Talk about your feelings. Don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider about the best coping methods if you experience emotional changes after your hysterectomy.
Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself plenty of time to adjust to life after a hysterectomy.
What to avoid after a hysterectomy
Don’t lift anything heavy. You won’t be allowed to lift anything heavy like carrying the laundry or even grocery bags.
Don’t drive. Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can resume driving – usually 2 weeks after the surgery.
Don’t have sex until your surgeon tells you it’s okay. Usually, no sex is allowed for 8 weeks. Don’t put anything, like a tampon, in the vagina, and no douching either for 8 weeks.
Don’t do any vigorous exercise. Wait until your healthcare provider tells you it’s okay to resume your exercise routine.
Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes. Loose clothing will help keep pressure off your incision and prevent irritation while making it easy for you to relax.
Don’t do too much too soon. Overexerting yourself and trying to do too much too soon may delay your healing process. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and ask questions if unsure.
A hysterectomy is a major surgery, and recovery may take several weeks. Planning for your recovery and paying attention to your healthcare provider’s instructions may help you successfully manage the recovery process and prevent complications.