Transgender Surgery: Recovery

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Recovery from transgender surgery—also called gender affirmation surgery or gender confirmation surgery—can vary from person to person. It will depend on the type of procedure you have and your overall health.

This article looks at surgery follow-up, recovery timeline, coping strategies, and wound care.

Transgender Surgery Recovery Pain Management

Verywell / Joules Garcia

When to Seek Help

If you or a loved one is experiencing problems after transgender surgery, contact your healthcare provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately for help.

Surgery Follow-Up 

Your surgery follow-up will depend on your procedures. In general, transgender surgery can be divided into transfeminine and transmasculine surgeries.

Transfeminine surgeries 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

Transmasculine surgeries include:

  • 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

You may have follow-up appointments to:

  • Check how you are healing after surgery 
  • Remove your drains 
  • Remove your stitches 
  • Check for infections and scarring 
  • Change or add new medications 
  • Discuss any problems you may be experiencing after surgery 
  • Discuss returning to normal activities 
  • Have blood tests or imaging tests 
  • Determine if you need any follow-up procedures 

You will continue to receive counseling to support your mental health. You may also need physical therapy depending on the type of procedure you had and your progress after surgery.

Recovery Timeline 

Your recovery timeline will depend on your surgery. Talk to your healthcare provider about the timeline and when you can expect to return to work and normal activities.

You should receive specific instructions for your recovery.

Facial Feminization and Masculinization Surgeries 

The typical recovery time for facial feminization and masculinization surgeries will depend on where on your body you had the procedure. For example:

  • Surgeries for the nose and cheeks may need two to four weeks for recovery until the swelling goes down.
  • Surgeries for the jaw and chin may need two weeks for recovery and up to four months in some cases.

Transfeminine and Transmasculine Top Surgeries 

The typical recovery time for transfeminine and transmasculine top surgeries is one to two weeks. You may be able to return to work two weeks after surgery. However, you may need to avoid rigorous physical activity for at least one month.

Transfeminine and Transmasculine Bottom Surgeries 

The typical recovery time for transfeminine and transmasculine bottom surgeries is six weeks. You will have to avoid working and doing strenuous activities. During this time, you will have weekly follow-up appointments to check your healing.

Coping With Recovery

In general, transgender surgery can have a long recovery process. Every person’s recovery timeline is different, so your coping strategies may also be unique. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help with coping after your surgery.

To cope with possible limitations while recovering, you may need:

  • Help around the house
  • Help with cooking and other activities 
  • Someone to drive you to appointments 
  • Someone to pick up your prescriptions 
  • To rearrange your home or surroundings so they are more comfortable

For pain management, you may need: 

  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications 
  • Guided imagery exercises 
  • Breathing exercises 
  • Relaxing music 
  • More rest than usual
  • More pillows 
  • Heating pads or cold packs 

Your mental health care is also part of the recovery process. You should continue to see your therapist or counselor during recovery.

During therapy, you may want to discuss: 

  • Coping mechanisms during the recovery process 
  • How you feel about the surgery and its results 
  • If you want to do more surgeries to transition 
  • Any regrets or other negative and positive feelings 
  • Concerns about passing as the gender after surgery 
  • Telling others about the surgery and your transition 
  • Reactions from others to the surgery and transition process 
  • Your support system 
  • The impact the surgery and transition is having on your relationships 
  • Concerns about discrimination and harassment 
  • Other stresses or problems you may be experiencing 

Wound Care

Your healthcare provider will give you instructions for wound care after your surgery. The instructions will depend on the type of procedure you had and other factors.

Wound care may include: 

  • Avoiding bathing or showering until your healthcare provider approves 
  • Taking sponge baths 
  • Washing your hands with soap and water before dressing the wound 
  • Applying doctor-approved ointments or creams to the wound
  • Changing the dressing or bandages 
  • Avoiding exposure to the sun while you heal 
  • Looking at the wound every day for signs of an infection 

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you notice: 

  • New redness, swelling, bleeding, or pain in the wound area
  • The wound is bigger or deeper
  • New drainage or pus coming from the wound that is green, yellow, or tan 
  • A bad smell coming from the wound 
  • The area around the wound feels hot to the touch 
  • You have a fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or more 
  • More pain than usual 

These signs can indicate you may have an infection and need treatment right away. If you are not able to get in touch with your healthcare provider, then go to the hospital. 

A Word From Verywell

It is important to remember that recovery time varies from person to person, so your experience may be different than someone else’s. Transgender surgery can have a long recovery period. You may also need to have multiple surgeries, and each one will have a different recovery process.

To optimize your recovery and healing process, make sure to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions. You will receive specific directions to care for wounds and other parts of the recovery process.

You will also have many follow-up appointments that you do not want to skip. Follow-up visits give healthcare providers the chance to assess your healing and intervene with medications or other procedures if necessary.

During recovery, you’ll want to have a strong support system around you that includes healthcare providers, therapists, and others. Counseling will continue to be an important part of your life after surgery.

Keep in mind that it may take up to a year to see the final results of your surgery. Scars can also take a long time to heal. It helps to think of transgender surgery as a journey instead of a quick procedure with instant results.

3 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. Cleveland Clinic. Gender affirmation (confirmation) or sex reassignment surgery.

By Lana Bandoim
Lana Bandoim is a science writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering complex health topics.