Hysterectomy: Recovery

Recovering From a Hysterectomy

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A hysterectomy is a common surgery to remove a woman's uterus. 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 and recovery, it's important that you carefully and thoroughly follow your surgeon's instructions after your hysterectomy.

These instructions may include when to follow-up, restrictions on activities (e.g., lifting, sex, driving, etc), and symptoms you should watch out for, like a fever or abnormal drainage from your incision site.

Surgery Follow-up

After a hysterectomy, it's important to follow-up with your surgeon as advised.

Typically, you will need two post-operative appointments:

  • 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—any bruising or swelling should be gone by this point.

In addition to follow-up appointments with your surgeon, it's important to also see your gynecologist and/or general physician for your usual care.

Depending on whether your cervix is removed during your hysterectomy, you may need to continue cervical cancer screening with Pap smears and HPV tests.

If you had your ovaries removed with your hysterectomy, you will experience surgical menopause. This results in immediate menopausal symptoms of varying severity, such as:

Hormone replacement therapy may be recommended (this may be discussed with your doctor prior to surgery) to help minimize these symptoms.

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 have some of the following symptoms—pain, constipation, and vaginal bleeding/discharge. These symptoms will continue as you recover at home, but to a lesser degree. 

To treat pain, your doctor will give you pain medicine—you may need more or less depending on the type of hysterectomy.

A typical pain treatment plan may include a combination of the following:

After surgery, your bowel may take some time to go back to its normal functioning.

To ease constipation, your doctor will likely recommend the following:

  • Drinking fluids (eight to ten 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)

You can manage vaginal bleeding and discharge, which will last several weeks, with sanitary pads. The bleeding should get thinner and lighter over time.

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, like for short walks around your house, at first, and later, around your block, if possible, is important for preventing blood clots, as well as for your healing and overall recovery.

It's also important to follow your surgeon's instruction 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 your incision site(s) daily with warm water and soap and then gently pat dry
  • 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

There may also be restrictions on the following activities:

  • Heavy lifting: Usually, no more than 10 to 20 pounds for six weeks.
  • Driving: Usually, around two weeks, after you have stopped your pain medication.
  • Sex: Your surgeon will not want you to place anything into your vagina for the first six to eight weeks after a hysterectomy—therefore, no tampons, douching, or sex.
  • Working: This may be up to six weeks, especially if your job is physically demanding.
  • Bathing: You may not be able to bathe until your incision site has healed; showering gently right after surgery is usually OK.

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

Seek Medical Attention

Call your surgeon right away, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms during your recovery:

  • Fever
  • Persistent or severe vaginal bleeding (soaking through a pad in less than an hour)
  • A foul odor from your vagina
  • Redness, swelling, tenderness, or cloudy or yellow/white drainage from or around the incision site(s)
  • Pain that is not eased with medication
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Problems with urination

Go directly to your emergency room or call 911 if you are experiencing severe or sudden pain in your leg or chest pain/trouble breathing (concern for a blood clot).

Coping With Recovery

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 appointments.

Keep in mind, as well, 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, 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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