Hysterectomy: Recovery

In This Article

The overall recovery for an abdominal hysterectomy is around four to six weeks and may be sooner for a laparoscopic or vaginal hysterectomy. To prevent complications and to optimize healing, it's important that you carefully and thoroughly follow your surgeon's instructions. These may include when to follow-up, activities to restrict (e.g., lifting, sex, driving, etc), and what symptoms to watch out for, like a fever or abnormal drainage from your incision site.

Surgery Follow-Up

Typically, you will need two post-operative appointments after a hysterectomy:

  • One to two weeks after surgery: Your doctor will check your incision site(s). If staples were placed to hold the incision site together, they will be removed.
  • Six weeks after surgery: Your doctor will perform a vaginal exam. Your doctor will also examine your incision site to look for bruising or swelling, which should be gone by this point.

It's important to make these appointments and any others that your surgeon might recommend in your specific case. In addition to these, it's important to also see your gynecologist and/or general physician for your usual care.

Recovery Timeline

Recovery begins in the hospital after your surgery. Most women with an abdominal hysterectomy will stay in the hospital for two to three nights. With a laparoscopic hysterectomy, a woman may only stay for one night.

While staying at the hospital, you can expect to experience pain, constipation, and/or vaginal bleeding/discharge. These symptoms will continue as you recover at home—possible for several weeks, but to a lesser degree of severity.

Returning to Regular Activity

Once you are home from the hospital, your doctor will want you to rest, but also not stay in bed all day. Getting up, stretching, and moving around are important for preventing blood clots, as well as for your healing and overall recovery.

Early on, you might go for short walks around your house, and later progress to longer distances, like a walk around your block.

There may also be restrictions on the following activities:

  • Heavy lifting: Usually no more than 10 to 20 pounds for six weeks
  • Driving: Can likely be resumed two weeks post-surgery and after you have stopped your pain medication
  • Sex: Should be avoided for the first six to eight weeks after a hysterectomy
  • Working: You may need to take a leave for six weeks, especially if your job is physically demanding.

Talk with your doctor about the specific limits and timelines for when you can resume these activities.

Monitoring and Wound Care

Carefully follow your surgeon's instructions regarding your incision site; you will have a larger one if you underwent an abdominal hysterectomy and multiple tiny ones if you underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy.

Your surgeon may ask you to do the following:

  • Wash the incision site(s) daily with warm water and soap, and then gently pat dry. (You may not be able to bathe until your incision site has healed; showering gently right after surgery is usually OK.)
  • Wear loose, cotton clothing to avoid irritating the incision site(s).
  • Apply cream on the skin around the incision site(s) if you experience itching.

Be mindful of your symptoms and whether they are improving or worsening. Call your surgeon right away if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms during your recovery:

  • Fever
  • Redness, swelling, tenderness, or yellow/white drainage from or around the incision site(s)
  • Persistent or severe vaginal bleeding (soaking through a pad in less than an hour)
  • Excessive or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Severe pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Unable to pass stool or gas
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Problems with urination

Call 911 if you are experiencing chest discomfort or tightness, are having trouble breathing, or are experiencing pain, redness, or swelling in your calf, knee, thigh, or groin.

Coping With Recovery

Coping after a hysterectomy obvious has physical aspects, but it can have mental ones too. It helps to know what you may face and how it can be addressed.

Symptom Management

To treat your pain, your doctor will give you medicine. A typical pain treatment plan may include a combination of the following:

  • Tylenol (acetaminophen)
  • A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), such as ibuprofen
  • Opioids (only as a rescue pain medicine, meaning it's given if pain occurs despite taking the above medications)

You can manage vaginal bleeding and discharge, which will last several weeks, with sanitary pads. The bleeding should get thinner and lighter over time. Do not use and using vaginal products, such as tampons, for six to eight weeks post-surgery.

Since it may take your bowel some time to go back to its normal functioning, your doctor may recommend the following to ease constipation:

  • Drinking fluids (eight to 10 glasses of water a day)
  • Increasing fiber in your diet
  • Taking a stool softener, such as Colace (docusate) and/or a laxative, such as Senokot (senna)

Finally, if you have not already gone through menopause naturally and your ovaries are removed during the hysterectomy, you will experience surgical menopause. This results in immediate menopausal symptoms of varying severity, such as:

Hormone replacement therapy may be recommended to help minimize these symptoms.

Support

As you physically recover, please reach out to others for help—whether that's making a pharmacy run for you, helping to care for your pet, or driving you to and from doctor's appointments.

Keep in mind, as well, that emotional changes are normal and common after a hysterectomy. Some women are relieved that symptoms, like pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding, have abated. Other women, however, may feel sad or even depressed after a hysterectomy.

To cope with these various emotions, you may consider joining a support group or seeing a therapist. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, please reach out to your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Life after a hysterectomy, for many women, is a great improvement over dealing with the problems that made the surgery necessary in the first place. Nevertheless, the recovery after a hysterectomy can be challenging and requires patience, care, and diligence. As your body heals, please do not hesitate to reach out to your surgical care team should any questions or worries arise.

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Article Sources
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