Post Op Guide: Recovery After Hysterectomy Surgery

August 03, 2021

Post Op Guide: Recovery After Hysterectomy Surgery

A hysterectomy is the second most common surgery that women undergo in the United States (first being the C-section). Around 20 million American women have experienced a hysterectomy and it’s estimated that doctors perform 600,000 hysterectomies every year.

A hysterectomy is an operation that takes out a woman's reproductive organs, which include the uterus, the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.

There are several reasons why women undergo this surgical procedure. A hysterectomy is a viable option if you have a condition like endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, or cervical cancer that cannot be managed with chemotherapy.

man in black jacket sitting on chair

 

The procedure is generally safe and low-risk. If you want to learn more about the types of hysterectomies and the post op recovery process, read on.

In this article, we will discuss: 

  • Types of Hysterectomies
  • How Is a Hysterectomy Performed?
  • Post-Op
  • 1 Week Post Op
  • 1-2 Months Post Op
  • When to Seek Medical Attention
  • Final Thoughts

Types of Hysterectomies

Different women get different types of hysterectomies.

There are 4 types of hysterectomy procedures:

(1) partial orsupracervical hysterectomy, (2) total hysterectomy, (3) radical hysterectomy,  and (4) hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy.

Hysterectomy | National Women's Health Network

Photo from National Women's Health Network

The type you’ll have is based on the reason behind the surgery and how much of your uterus and reproductive organs can stay intact.

Here’s what you should know about the various kinds of hysterectomies:

Partial/Supracervical Hysterectomy

In partial/supracervical hysterectomy, only a part of your uterus will be taken out and your doctor will keep your cervix as is.

Asupracervical hysterectomy willNOT be appropriate for you if you have cervical cancer or an abnormal pap smear. You can leave your cervix intact if you don’t have any reason to remove it. But it will mean you’re still at risk of cervical cancer.

Total Hysterectomy

A total hysterectomy removes all of your uterus, which includes the cervix. With this procedure, you won't have to worry about developing cervical cancer in the future. This is why many doctors recommend it over asupracervical hysterectomy.

Out of all the types, a total hysterectomy is the one that is performed the most often. 

Radical Hysterectomy

This type of hysterectomy is typically done if you have a form of gynecological cancer like ovarian or cervical cancer. You may need a radical hysterectomy if your body can’t handle chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or if these haven't been effective in treating your cancer.

A radical hysterectomy will involve removing the following:

  • Cervix
  • Womb
  • A part of your vagina
  • Tissue on the sides of your womb

Hysterectomy and Salpingo-Oophorectomy

During this surgery, the doctor will take out your entire uterus as well as your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries.

Doctors will recommend a hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy if you’re at high risk of ovarian cancer since your ovaries should only be taken out as a last resort. Should you proceed with having both ovaries removed, you may need hormone replacement therapy.

How Is a Hysterectomy Performed?

There are 3 ways surgeons perform a hysterectomy. For all of these methods, you’ll need a local or general anesthetic so you won’t experience any pain during the surgery.

Abdominal

This procedure will involve making a big incision in your belly to remove your uterus. Your surgeon may do the cut horizontally or vertically. Usually, a vertical cut will be done if you have an enlarged uterus caused by fibroids or gynecologic cancer. Thehysterectomy scar will be minimal regardless of how the incision is made.

A vaginal hysterectomy is typically recommended for fibroids that develop because of endometriosis. However, your doctor may suggest an abdominal hysterectomy when your fibroids are large and cannot be taken out through your vagina. It may also be recommended if your cancer causes pelvic tumors.  

It will take around an hour to carry out this operation. 

Vaginal

Total hysterectomies are performed vaginally. A vaginal hysterectomy will require cutting a small incision in the top of your vagina, enough to fit small surgical instruments. Your doctor will insert the tools into your vagina to separate the uterus from the ligaments that keep it attached. 

Once your uterus and cervix have been taken out, the cut will be stitched. You won't have a visiblehysterectomy scar since the incision is internal. 

Vaginal hysterectomies are usually about an hour to three hours long.

Laparoscopic

A laparoscopic hysterectomy uses a tool known as a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a long tube with a lighted camera that helps your surgeon view your uterus without making a large incision.

Once the laparoscope is in, the surgeon will then place surgical instruments in your abdomen (making further small incisions) in order to remove your uterus.

What to do Post Op?

You'll need to spend some time in the hospital after your hysterectomy. This can be 2-5 days depending on the type of surgery you had.

Here are some things you should remember immediately after the surgery:

  • You might wake up exhausted and in pain, but don't be alarmed. It's common after having an operation like this.
  • You'll be provided with painkillers to help make the pain more bearable. But if you prefer a more natural way of relieving your pain, you can use cold therapy. Putting a cool oversized clay pack over your tummy, for instance, will keep swelling down following an abdominal hysterectomy. 
  • A catheter will be inserted into your bladder before your procedure. This collects your urine and transfers it to a bag. Once it’s removed (usually the day after your operation), they’ll measure your pee to find out whether your bladder is working fine. 
  • Sometimes, people feel queasy after anesthesia. If you're one of them, your nurse can give you medicines that get rid of the icky feeling.
  • Your doctor or nurse will give you directions on how to care for your wound. Follow these to a tee to prevent infection and to let the incision heal faster.
  • You'll need assistance in the shower if you had an abdominal hysterectomy. This is during the first day after your operation. The next day, though, they’ll encourage you to shower on your own. If your hysterectomy was vaginal or laparoscopic, you'll be helped if needed.
  • You’ll be encouraged to go for a short walk the day after your surgery. This will help keep your blood flowing normally and stop blood clots from developing.
  • Your lady parts will be covered in gauze for a few days to manage bleeding. After it’s removed, expect a bloody or brownish discharge from your vagina. This can last up to 6 weeks. Wear a sanitary pad to prevent staining your sheets and clothes OR use absorbent pads that double as an ice pack
  • Vaginal discharge is typical, but it’s not supposed to be as heavy as a period. Make sure to let your doctor know if you experience persistent or heavy bleeding.

1 WeekPost Op

After you’re discharged from the hospital, you have to take it easy. Your body needs time to heal.

Take note of the followingafter care tips:

  • Drink lots of fluids and add more fruits and fiber to your diet. Constipation is one side effect of a hysterectomy.
  • While you’re recovering, you’re going to feel weak and exhausted. You’ll need to take frequent naps and breaks throughout the day. Getting as much rest as you can during the first two weekspost op is crucial for your healing.
  • You still need to keep walking, whether that’s around your yard or your neighborhood. But don’t overdo the physical activity. Skip bending and lifting heavy objects.Sex after hysterectomy should also be avoided for at least six weeks.
  • Avoid taking baths; have showers instead. When showering, don't let the water hit your incision directly. Pat it gently to let it dry after. Rubbing your wound will irritate it.
  • When you’re feeling sore and swollen, it can be difficult to get comfortable. Wear loose and stretchy clothes to let your body breathe.   
  • If your ovaries were removed, expect to start having mood swings, hot flashes, and other menopausal symptoms (if you didn’t already go through menopause, that is). Hormone replacement therapy can help you control these symptoms in the long run.

1-2 MonthsPost Op

You can fully recover from your operation within a span of 2 to 8 weeks, subject to the kind of hysterectomy you underwent.

After an abdominal hysterectomy, it will take about 6-8 weeks for you to heal. You’ll have a shorter recovery period if you had a vaginal hysterectomy, which can heal in as early as 2 weeks.

A laparoscopic hysterectomy is the least invasive surgery and therefore has the quickest recovery time of 6 days to 2 weeks

Here’s other important information to know:

  • Most women experience grief after their hysterectomy. You may mourn the loss of your womb and not being able to carry a baby. This is normal. Don’t hesitate to seek comfort from a professional or your family and friends.
  • If you had your hysterectomy before menopause and didn’t get rid of your ovaries, there’s a chance you’ll experience menopause at a younger age.
  • You may visit your doctor for apostoperative check-up around a month after your surgery. Use this opportunity to bring up any questions or concerns. 
  • It may take 3 to 8 weeks for you to drive again following your operation, though you should only do it once you can wear a seatbelt comfortably. 
  • Many women experience a loss of libido post-op, so it’s not really a cause for concern if it’s the same for you. It should come back when you’re completely healed. In fact, your sex life may improve because the pain you felt prior to your hysterectomy will disappear.
  • Since you can’t get pregnant after having your womb taken out, you don’t need contraception. But your partner should still use a condom so you can stay safe from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

When to Seek Medical Attention

While all forms of hysterectomies are considered safe, like any surgery, there is a chance of complications. You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Temperature higher than 101°F
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Redness, drainage, or swelling from your wound
  • Opening of stitches in the operative site
  • Foul odor from your vagina, wound, or dressing
  • Pain that isn't alleviated by painkillers
  • Urinary and bowel movement issues
  • Chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath

Final Thoughts

Every year, thousands of women undergo a hysterectomy. You shouldn't worry about getting one, as it's a safe procedure. Remember to follow your doctor'spost operative care instructions, report any major side effects, and don't overexert yourself.

Icewraps’ wide selection of gel and clay packs can support you as you recover.that can make yourpost op recovery more pleasant. You can use our oversized clay pack to soothe your swollen belly, or use our while our 4x10 cooling gel pack is good for alleviating pain in your incision site. We also recommend our instant perineal packs are also specifically designed to relieve discomfort in your vagina and help with any discharge.

 
ICEWRAPS 12X21 OVERSIZE COLD THERAPY CLAY PACK WITH COVER ICEWRAPS 4X10 REUSABLE MULTIPURPOSE HOT/COLD GEL PACK, 2 PACK ICEWRAPS INSTANT PERINEAL COLD PACK - 12 COUNT SINGLE USE 

 

If you're a clinic or a hospital, we offer custom gel packs in a variety of colors and sizes for your patients. Check out our complete list here.


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