By Dr Liji Thomas, MD
Following a hysterectomy, It is normal to wake up to some pain and you may also feel some nausea. You will be prescribed medications to help relieve these symptoms. You may notice that there is a dressing placed over your abdominal wounds if you had an abdominal hysterectomy.
In addition, you may have an intravenous infusion through a cannula in your arm, a urinary catheter which empties your bladder, or a drainage tube to drain away any blood from the wound, which will be removed after one or two days. If you had a vaginal hysterectomy, you may have a gauze pack packed into your vagina to keep the wound from oozing blood. This is usually removed after 24 hours.
A hysterectomy is not only a major pelvic surgery but involves the surgery and repair of some very important pelvic supports that make up the support of your abdominal visceral, when you are in the upright position. It takes time to recover strength in this area, which is why recovering from a hysterectomy is also a relatively slow process. After an abdominal hysterectomy, you may be discharged in one to five days,and within four days (or even on the first day, in some cases) with a vaginal or robotic surgery. Longer hospitalizations may be necessary if you have fever, hemorrhage or other complications.
The actual time you take to recover if you don’t have any complications depends on the type of surgery you have had and your previous health. After an abdominal hysterectomy, it may take anywhere from four to eight weeks to return to normal. After vaginal, laparoscopic or robotic surgery, it takes three to four weeks for the same process.
One of the most important things you can do to speed up your recovery, is to get out of bed and move around, starting on the first or second day. The urinary catheter is removed as early as possible and you will be asked to go to the bathroom thereafter. This kind of early movement will prevent clots from forming in your veins. You can also eat normally as soon as you can tolerate it.
During your recovery, you should have adequate rest, without lifting heavy objects, to avoid straining your cut abdominal muscles and supporting fibrous tissue. At the end of that time you will be able to enjoy your bathtub. Stitches, if any, are removed within a week.
Intercourse must be delayed until vaginal discharge stops and scars heal, which usually takes up to six weeks. You may expect pain-free intercourse and in many cases, a better experience than before the hysterectomy.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises will help to strengthen your pelvic support system. Your medical team should advise you on this matter before you are discharged.
The date when you may return to work depends on your occupation. If your work is light and doesn’t involve much manual or heavy labor, four to eight weeks may be an adequate period of leave. Driving must be postponed until you can wear your seatbelt comfortably and it doesn’t hurt when you come to a sudden stop – this will depend upon the individual’s recovery. If your insurance company requires a certificate of fitness to drive, you must get one from your GP.
Resuming your workouts must be based upon the advice of your medical team. Walking is beneficial in all forms of hysterectomy, but swimming should be delayed until your wounds heal. It is wise to start slowly, as you may feel unusually tired at first.
You may require further treatment, depending on whether your hysterectomy was done for cancer.
Follow-up visits may be done with your GP, so that you only need to visit the hospital if you have any complications.
If your ovaries were removed at the time of your hysterectomy, you will enter menopause. This may lead to distressing symptoms, and if done before the age of 40, it may cause you to have a higher risk of some health conditions such as osteoporosis. You may need to discuss the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy, to avoid or postpone the symptoms and health risks of early menopause.
Reviewed by Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Last Updated: Aug 1, 2016