Surviving a Hysterectomy - Part 2

 By Jodie Dunne

This is part two of a series about surviving hysterectomy. Read part one here.

So, you’ve had your surgery and are back on the ward. How long you stay in hospital will vary—some people go home the day of, while others stay a few days. Your doctor will decide what works best for you.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Hospital

  • After bowel prep and waiting around for your surgery, you may find yourself with a serious headache—the lack of food and fluids really catches up with you. You can feel pretty miserable, but stay strong as this feeling does pass.

  • When you come out of surgery you may find they get you to sit up quite quickly. This can be intimidating and a little painful, so take it slowly and work with your doctor and nurse.

  • You may also find the tubes etc used during surgery have given you a sore throat and you may lose your voice slightly. That’s not unusual.

  • While you’re in hospital you’ll have a catheter until you’re able to walk around and get feeling back in your bladder area. Once it is removed, you need to be able to empty your bladder properly before you are discharged. The staff will measure how much you urinate and use an ultrasound to check how empty your bladder is afterwards. Sometimes, you might think you’re doing well but the ultrasound shows something different, which can be really frustrating.

  • Eat as well as you can in hospital.

  • Ensure you manage your pain and consistently take your medication. Taking your medication regularly means you’re less likely to need the stronger stuff to get on top of a pain spike. It's the stronger pain meds that can slow your bowels, which is important to remember.

  • Start moving as soon as they let you—it helps with constipation and can help with the shoulder pain from the gas that they can pump into your stomach during surgery. In hospital, go for regular laps of your floor or ward and when you return home, go for a walk with a loved one regularly, gradually increasing it.

  • Wear loose fitting comfortable clothes, have easy to get on and off shoes and socks. I preferred baggy dresses over even yoga pants.

  • Stay hydrated and don’t be surprised if your bowels slow down. If you are concerned about constipation, ask the nurses and your doctor about what can be done to help you. There are very few things worse than being constipated after pelvic surgery.

  • Expect to feel bloated.

  • Spotting is likely to happen and it can scare you. Remember, fluid spreads further and looks more than it is. The amount decreases over time but if you are worried ask your doctor.

  • Look after your incisions—clean wounds help limit the chance of infection.

2. Heading home

  • Rest—get lots of rest.

  • Get comfortable—set yourself up in the bedroom or lounge room that you set up before you went to hospital.

  • Ask for help—now is not the time to think you can do it all. Ask your family and friends to help you during your recovery. Accept the offers to cook you food, watch your children, walk the dog or clean the house.

  • Don’t rush back into driving. It can take a number of weeks after surgery before you begin driving again. You need to not be taking medications that make you drowsy and you also need to ensure that you are comfortable sitting for a decent amount of time, can handle the seatbelt on your tummy and can turn the wheel (which believe it or not does require a fair bit of force coordinated by more than just your arms) and controls without pain. You also need to be able to handle the force of the car stopping suddenly and of course, be able to twist so you can check your blind spots etc.

Things to remember:

  • If you spike a fever, feel confused, have difficulty breathing, have uncontrollable bleeding or pain, or notice something wrong with your incision, call your doctor right away. Don’t try to tough it out. The quicker you get treatment for anything out of the ordinary, the sooner you’ll feel better.

  • If your ovaries are removed along with your uterus during your hysterectomy, you will begin menopause immediately and menopausal symptoms in this instance can be more extreme.

  • Menopausal symptoms may include mood swings, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and other effects. Even if you have one ovary left untouched it can go into a little bit of shock and stop working and you can get all those menopausal symptoms temporarily. Work with your doctor to decide if you would like hormone replacement therapy or other treatment to help with your symptoms.

  • When your doctor tells you it is ok to have sex again, use a good quality lubricant and take things slow. There is no rush. If you are in pain it is ok to stop and seek medical help or advice.

What was your post-hysterectomy experience? Did you do something different to what has been suggested above? Share your tips or experience in the comments below.

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