No matter what the reason might be for your hysterectomy -- painful periods, fibroids, endometriosis, cancer, etc. -- it is a major surgery. And, depending on your overall health and the surgical approach your surgeon uses for the operation, your journey to recovery can take several weeks to several months.
Here’s what to expect after a hysterectomy, with a game plan for how to handle everything from pain to emotional ups and downs. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
What is a Hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is a common surgery to remove a woman’s uterus. In some cases, the fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed.
Attached to the uterus on each side is a single fallopian tube and one ovary. When you’re pregnant, a fertilized egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus, where the developing fetus is nourished prior to birth. The uterus -- AKA the womb -- is essential for reproduction. After undergoing a hysterectomy operation, you can’t become pregnant and you will stop getting your period.
Depending on the reason for the surgery, your surgeon may choose to remove all or only part of your uterus. Patients and even health care providers sometimes use these terms inexactly, so it’s a good idea to clarify if the cervix and/or ovaries are removed:
- A total hysterectomy removes the entire cervix and uterus.
- A supracervical or subtotal hysterectomy removes only the upper part of the uterus while still keeping the cervix in place.
- A radical hysterectomy removes the entire uterus, some tissue on each side of the uterus, the cervix, and the top part of the vagina. This type of hysterectomy is generally only used as a measure to battle cervical cancer or uterine cancer that’s spread to the cervix.
Your surgeon may remove your ovaries -- a procedure called oophorectomy -- or may leave them in place. When your fallopian tubes are removed, that procedure is called salpingectomy. When both tubes, both ovaries, and the entire uterus are all removed, the procedure is called a hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy-oophorectomy.
What Are The Reasons For A Hysterectomy?
There are many reasons why someone might be considering a hysterectomy. The conditions that are most likely to be treated by this type of surgery include:
- Fibroids -- non-cancerous growths that form within the muscular walls of the uterus, outside the uterus, or even within the uterine cavity.
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods -- women who suffer from heavy or irregular periods may look to a hysterectomy for treatment.
- Severe period pain -- also known as dysmenorrhoea, women who experience severe period pain may also consider a hysterectomy.
- Cancer -- of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, or fallopian tubes.
- Endometriosis -- a painful condition in which cells similar to those in the lining of the uterus grow in other areas of the body, especially around the ovaries and peritoneum in the pelvis.
- Adenomyosis -- another painful condition where endometrial-like cells grow in the muscle of the uterus.
- Prolapse -- when a prolapse happens, the uterus falls into the vagina because of loose ligaments or damage to the pelvic floor muscles, usually from childbirth.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease -- commonly referred to as PID, this disease is caused by a bacterial infection, often from sexually transmitted infections. In severe cases, a hysterectomy may be suggested for treatment.
What To Expect After Your Hysterectomy
While the surgery takes up to three hours from start to finish, every person is different and is discharged from the hospital according to their specific needs. The general time frame is between two and five days.
No matter when your discharge might be, you’ll be encouraged to get up and walk around soon after surgery to help you on the road to recovery. You’ll be given medicine to prevent blood clots and to help ease the pain. Most of your recovery will be done at home.
You can expect to feel stronger and better each day post-surgery, but you may need pain meds for a week or two.
It’s normal to experience some shoulder or back pain after surgery. This can be caused by several factors, including the position you were in while under anesthesia when your back muscles were relaxed, spending more time on your back during recovery, and sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress or pillow.
During recovery, you may get sleepy easily or have less energy than usual. The fatigue may last for several weeks after surgery and is a good signal to go slow and take care of yourself.
You may also notice that your belly is puffy and swollen -- this is common and normal. The swelling will take a few weeks to go down, and it may take about four to six weeks to recover fully.
If your ovaries were removed, you might experience menopause symptoms starting within a few days of your surgery. If you still had periods before your surgery, your doc will discuss estrogen replacement therapy or other options with you. How long you might need estrogen replacement therapy will depend on your age -- everyone is different! Just be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns.
How Can You Care For Yourself At Home?
After surgery and a few days in the hospital, you’ll be heading to the comfort of your own home to spend the next several weeks recovering -- while it may be tempting to try to hurry the process, your body needs you to slow down and let it heal.
That said, there are things you can do to help you recover faster, but it all boils down to listening to your body and not pushing yourself. If ever there was a time to be gentle to your body, now is it!
Here are some tips to keep in mind to help you have a speedy and successful recovery.
When it comes to activity, it’s critical not to push yourself. You know your body best -- listen to it and respond accordingly.
- Rest when you’re feeling sleepy.
- Try your best to do some light physical activities. Walking is a great choice.
- Allow the area to heal properly. Don’t move quickly or try to lift anything heavy. Hold a comfy pillow over your incisions when you cough or take deep breaths -- this will provide support to your belly and may help to decrease your pain.
- You may shower 24 to 48 hours post-surgery -- as long as your doc says it’s okay. Pat your incision dry. You should not take a bath for the first two weeks.
- Ask your doctor when it’s okay for you to have sex.
Some people are under the impression that they won’t be able to eat after getting a hysterectomy -- but this is not the case.
- You can eat your normal diet, but if your tummy gets upset, swap to bland, low-fat foods like oatmeal, toast, plain rice, and yogurt.
- If your bowel movements are not regular following your surgery, try to avoid straining and constipation. Drink lots of H2O. Your doc may suggest increasing your fiber intake. Sparkle Fiber from Love Wellness is a powerful yet gentle daily fiber supplement that can help to remove toxins from your body, boost your energy levels, and will help with bloating issues, which can be a problem after surgery.
Taking any prescription meds?
- Your doc will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. They will also provide you with instructions about taking any new ones post-surgery.
- If you happen to take aspirin or some other blood thinners from time to time, be sure to let your doctor know. They'll tell you if and when you can start taking those OTC meds again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doc wants you to do.
- Always be safe with medicines and follow all the instructions on the label.
- If your doctor gave you a prescription med for pain, take it exactly as prescribed.
- If you’re not taking a prescribed pain med and you need help with pain, ask your doctor if you can take an OTC medicine.
- If your doctor prescribes you antibiotics, take them as directed -- don't stop taking them just because you start to feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
Tip: If you’re taking antibiotics, there’s a good chance you might disrupt your vagina’s natural pH balance -- which can lead to urinary tract infections. Set yourself up with a regimen to stay balanced and maintain optimal pH with our Good Girl Probiotics.
Please note: whenever adding anything new to your regimen, we recommend checking in with your doctor/healthcare provider to ensure it makes sense for you, and they can answer any more specific questions you might have.
Good Girl Probiotics®
A Final Word
Hysterectomies are a serious surgery that women choose to have for a variety of reasons.
Whatever the reason, caring for your mental and emotional state, in addition to your physical health, is super important throughout the entire process.
You may experience emotional ups and downs and mood swings and fluctuating feelings post-surgery. Know that this is common and a part of the healing process. You aren’t being “irrational.” You also aren’t alone. Some women find it helpful to join a hysterectomy support group where they can share their experiences and get support from others going through the same thing.
To set yourself up for recovery success and beyond, you’ll want to arm yourself with healthy solutions, like a good multivitamin packed with nutrients. Also, be sure to take it slow and treat your body with lots of love as it heals.
For all your wellness needs, check out all our great solutions at Love Wellness today, to support you in all that it takes to be a beautiful, strong woman.