Hysterectomy Recovery

Preparing for Your Hysterectomy Recovery

If you’re preparing for a hysterectomy, you are not alone. Roughly 300,000 women in the U.S. undergo hysterectomies each year to treat a variety of gynecological issues, from uncontrolled heavy vaginal bleeding or severe pain with menses to uterine prolapse or gynecological cancer. Anticipating the procedure can fill you with nerves – but arming yourself with the knowledge of what to expect and a few key hysterectomy recovery tips can help you feel more at ease. 

 

What to Expect from the Procedure

There are several different types of hysterectomies. All involve the removal of the uterus and often the cervix, though sometimes removing additional reproductive organs and tissues may be necessary.

Your recovery time will vary depending on the type of hysterectomy you have:

  • Abdominal hysterectomy: your uterus is removed through a six- to eight-inch-long incision in your abdomen. This procedure typically requires a longer hospital stay, with most women going home 2-3 days after surgery. You’ll need to avoid heavy lifting, but walking is encouraged, and you can get back to your regular activities after six weeks.
  • Vaginal hysterectomy: your uterus is removed through an incision at the top of your vagina. This type of procedure generally results in the fewest side effects and fastest recovery time (up to four weeks), and most women come home the same day or after a one-night hospital stay.
  • Laparoscopic hysterectomy: a thin tube with a video camera on the end is inserted into the lower abdomen through a small incision in the belly button, and surgical tools are inserted through several other small incisions. Recovery time is shorter and less painful than an abdominal hysterectomy, and some women go home the same day or the next day.  

You can expect to return to work in three to six weeks and resume your exercise routine in four to six weeks, depending on how you feel.

 

Potential Side Effects 

Most commonly, women can experience irritation at the incision sites and vaginal drainage up to six weeks after surgery. Some women may also experience pain during intercourse or pelvic weakness. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can help prevent or manage these potential side effects.

If your ovaries are removed as part of your hysterectomy, you may also experience side effects similar to menopausal symptoms, including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Difficulty sleeping

To help avoid or minimize these side effects, your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy or other non-hormonal treatments.

 

5 Essential Hysterectomy Recovery Tips

While your recovery time will partly depend on the type of procedure performed, much of the healing process is within your control. Keep these hysterectomy recovery tips in mind as you prepare for surgery:

 

  1. Make protein a priority. Higher protein intake is associated with earlier hospital discharge and a reduced risk of complications. In one study, women with gynecological cancer had 34% fewer surgical site infections when they drank a very high protein surgery recovery drink three times a day for five days post-surgery compared to those who did not.  This drink also contained specialized nutrients to help decrease the risk of infection. 
  2. Talk openly with your healthcare team. Everyone’s recovery process is different. Remember to talk openly and honestly with your providers about any side effects you’re experiencing so they can recommend the best treatment options for you.
  3. Follow post-op instructions carefully. Your doctor will tell you exactly what you need to know to stay in the fast lane on your road to full recovery. Common post-op instructions include avoiding lifting objects over 10 pounds for at least four to six weeks, avoiding sex for six weeks and washing your incision site with soap and water.
  4. Practice physical self-care. If you experience pain during intercourse, it may help to try different positions, lubricants, moisturizers, or a low-dose vaginal estrogen cream. To address pelvic weakness, kegel exercises (or “pelvic floor training”) may help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and regain bladder control.
  5. Seek emotional support. You may feel a sense of loss or grief after your hysterectomy, and that’s normal. Lean on trusted family and friends during this time and, if needed, reach out to a mental healthcare provider for support.

Talk to your doctor, dietitian, or mental health provider if you have questions or concerns about your hysterectomy recovery time, potential side effects or for additional recovery advice, including nutritional supplementation.


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