Transgender Surgery: Long-Term Care

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Transgender surgery is also called gender affirmation surgery or gender confirmation surgery. It requires long-term care, but how much care a person needs depends on their overall health and the type of surgery they had. People also need to make some lifestyle adjustments while they are healing from gender-affirming surgery.

Here is an overview of what might be included in long-term care after transgender surgery.

An overhead shot of a person in a hospital bed, they have tape on their hands and a hospital identification band on their wrist. They are covered with a white hospital blanket. Their face is not in view.

Sorrasak Jar Tinyo / Getty Images

Benefits of Surgery

Transgender surgery has both physical and psychological benefits. One of the main benefits is finally having the physical appearance and sexual functions of your gender.

Gender-affirming surgery allows you to achieve harmony between your body and your self-identity. It is a treatment for gender dysphoria (a mismatch between the sex assigned to you at birth and your gender identity). Having surgery can lead to higher self-esteem and better feelings about yourself and your body.

Gender affirmation surgery can also have long-term mental health benefits. One study showed that for every year after a person has gender-affirming surgery, the likelihood of mental health treatment goes down 8%.

Research has also shown that most people who have gender-affirming surgery report a higher quality of life and overall satisfaction with the results.

Maintaining the Benefits of Surgery 

There are several steps you can take to maintain the positive benefits of gender affirmation surgery.

You may have started seeing a counselor or therapist regularly before surgery. You should keep working with them after you have surgery. Counseling can help you cope with the outcomes of surgery and any complications that might arise. Therapy can also help you adjust to a new lifestyle and appearance.

To maintain the benefits of surgery, make sure to follow your doctor's directions for follow-up care and home-care instructions, and go to your scheduled appointments. During these visits, your doctor will check for infections or other complications that can affect the results of your surgery.

Your doctor will also talk to you about the regular screening schedules recommended for cancers and other health conditions. For example, a transgender woman might need to continue to have prostate cancer screenings.

When to Call for Help

If you are having problems after your surgery or are struggling with long-term care, it's important to let your doctor know. If you're having a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

Possible Future Surgeries

You may need additional surgical procedures after your original transgender surgery to help you achieve the appearance that makes you feel the most like your true self. Each procedure is another step in your transition journey.

After your first gender-affirming surgery, other procedures that you might consider include:

  • Facial feminization surgery to make masculine facial features more feminine
  • Transfeminine top surgery to change and enhance the breasts to make the chest look more feminine
  • Transfeminine bottom surgery to remove male genitalia and reconstruct them into female genitalia
  • Facial masculinization surgery to make feminine facial features more masculine
  • Transmasculine top surgery to remove the breasts and make the chest look more masculine
  • Transmasculine bottom surgery to change the female genitalia into male genitalia

It's also possible that your initial gender-affirming surgery will have complications. If this happens, you might need additional procedures, such as:

  • Draining a collection of fluid (seroma)
  • Draining a collection of infected fluid (abscess)
  • Draining a collection of blood (hematoma)
  • Fixing urological issues 
  • Repairing an abnormal connection between body parts (fistula)
  • Making changes to new sexual organs that were created during the original surgery 

Lifestyle Adjustments

After your surgery, your doctor will talk to you about the lifestyle adjustments you need to make. Healing can take time, and follow-up care is important. You will receive instructions for home care as you recover from surgery. 

After gender-affirming surgery, your doctor might recommend that you:

  • Quit smoking. 
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. 
  • Change your diet. 
  • Change how you sleep (for example, elevating your head).
  • Follow strict hygiene practices. 
  • Follow wound care practices.
  • Have pelvic floor therapy.
  • Have physical therapy.
  • Take medications for pain or infection. 
  • Check your surgical sites frequently for signs of infection.

Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may need to avoid doing certain activities until your doctor says it is safe to resume them. For example, while you recover, you may need to avoid: 

  • Having sex
  • Driving
  • Strenuous physical activity 
  • Lifting heavy objects 
  • Playing sports 
  • Taking baths 
  • Swimming 

Summary

Long-term care is an important part of transgender surgery. It is vital to remember that everyone's experience will be different since the type of care you will need will depend on the procedures you had, your medical history, and your overall health.

Having open communication with your doctors and therapists is a critical part of your long-term care. Make sure you feel comfortable discussing any problems with them and have frequent follow-up appointments to check your recovery. 

A Word From Verywell

Keep in mind that it can take months for the final results of your transgender surgery to fully appear. Some procedures take longer to heal and cause more swelling. Try not to feel discouraged if you do not see results right away.  

During your recovery and beyond, it's important to ensure you have the support you need, including medical care from your doctors and mental health care.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Schechter LS. Gender confirmation surgery: an update for the primary care provider. Transgend Health. 2016;1(1):32-40. doi:10.1089/trgh.2015.0006

  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Gender confirmation surgeries.

  3. Bränström R, Pachankis JE. Reduction in mental health treatment utilization among transgender individuals after gender-affirming surgeries: a total population studyAJP. 2020;177(8):727-734. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.19010080

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Gender affirmation (confirmation) or sex reassignment surgery. Updated May 3, 2021.