How can you speed up your hysterectomy recovery?
Probably you are reading this because you like to know what you can expect in terms of your recovery.
Or how you can speed up (or slow down) your progress by doing certain things.
How quickly you bounce back can depend on which type of hysterectomy you have had.
Clearly, most women will benefit from knowing what is allowed and what is not. Here is some key information for an uncomplicated hysterectomy recovery.
Hysterectomy Recovery Time You Spent in Hospital
If you have had a laparoscopic or vaginal hysterectomy, it is likely that you will only spend a day or two in hospital. This is because they are only a few small incisions instead of one larger incision like with abdominal surgery, allowing you to go home sooner.
For an abdominal hysterectomy, it may be necessary to stay in the hospital for up to 5 days. This may even be less if you are recovering well.
With newer safer types of non-invasive surgery, hysterectomy recovery time is much faster. Like with a DualPort laparoscopy, you can sometimes go home on the same day.
Things that may delay the hospital stay are existing health issues like diabetes or blood disorders, your age or when there are post-operative complications.
Vaginal Discharge or Bleeding Post-op
You can expect a bit of vaginal bleeding after your hysterectomy but usually, this does not last longer than 2 weeks. It is likely to be similar to a very light menstrual period and tends to be either pink or brown in color. You will probably want to use sanitary towels while the discharge persists. Avoid the use of tampons as they increase the risk of infection.
If the discharge lasts longer than 2 weeks or becomes heavier, redder and smells strong, it could be a sign of infection.
Pain Relief after Surgery
Waking up after surgery you may have some pain in your lower abdomen. Your surgeon will make sure that you get the right pain medication to lessen your pain.
Taking painkillers is more important for your recovery than you might think. The sooner you can move around freely without pain, the speedier your hysterectomy recovery time will be.
Post Hysterectomy Bladder and Bowel Problems
Constipation is fairly common, especially in the first few days of your hysterectomy recovery. You may not have a bowel movement at all for the first few days. This is quite normal because you are not moving around immediately after the surgery. Trapped wind can also cause some discomfort at this point.
Constipation is one of the reasons why you are advised to start walking and moving around as soon as possible as it helps to activate your bowels. In the short term, you may be given laxatives to make bowel movements easier. They prevent that you have to strain and risk opening up your hysterectomy incision. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can add boost your fiber intake too, which can help with constipation.
Urinary incontinence can also occur after a hysterectomy. You can take some steps to help this by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.
Physical Activity after Hysterectomy
Resting as much as you can in the first couple of weeks can help your recovery. Though it is still a good idea to move around and start to do some gentle exercise too. Once you feel able, your doctor will usually recommend that you do some walking every day. Stairs can often be tackled from early on in your hysterectomy recovery. Take it slowly, one leg at a time and take a break mid climb if you feel tired.
Fatigue is an issue for a lot of women after a hysterectomy. Especially in the early days, it is important to avoid overdoing things. Light lifting is generally okay as long as you do not try anything heavier than a kettle during the first week.
Heavy lifting can open up your hysterectomy incision. It may strain or damage the abdominal muscles before they have had a chance to heal properly. So heavy lifting isn’t recommended in the first 6 weeks of your recovery. Stretching is also best avoided for the first 4-6 weeks of your recovery.
The normal recovery time for an abdominal hysterectomy can take 6-8 weeks. However, it is possible to recover from laparoscopic and vaginal hysterectomies in as little in two weeks. If you live on your own, asking a family member or friend for help may allow you to take things easier.
The full hysterectomy recovery time can potentially take up to 12 weeks. Mind, most women feel that they have recovered around the 8-week mark.
Sex after a hysterectomy
Sex after hysterectomy is generally deemed okay after the 6-week mark, assuming that your incision has healed by then. You may experience some dryness that can make things uncomfortable but using a lubricant can ease this. You may have a lower sex drive than pre-surgery if your ovaries have also been removed.
Most women can resume driving again within 6 weeks and but this can vary depending on the type of surgery. Because the laparoscopic hysterectomy recovery time is shorter you can probably drive sooner than that.
The main things to consider are whether you can wear a seatbelt comfortably and perform emergency stops. How fast you react in such a situation depends on if you can move your lower limbs without causing pain.
Always consult your doctor when it is safe to drive a car again. It’s also a good idea to check with your insurance provider. If anything happens you don’t want to find yourself uninsured.
Hysterectomy Recovery – Time of Work
In general, you can go back to work within 3-4 weeks but it can be up to 8 weeks before you feel fully ready. You may need to be extra careful if you have a fairly physical role.
Bear in mind that heavy lifting should not be performed for at least 6 weeks. Though sometimes this can be difficult if your job requires a lot of physical effort.
How soon can you fly?
Doctors will usually advise not to fly until you are fully recovered and free from pain. During a fairly lengthy flight include staying well hydrated and doing some leg exercises while you are seated.
Bear in mind that airlines will often have their own guidelines and restrictions on flying after surgery. So it’s worth checking before you book a flight. With a major surgery like a hysterectomy, they may require a written permission from your surgeon.
A hysterectomy can trigger all kinds of emotions. Common are fear of pain or complications before the surgery. But also anxiousness about the impact the surgery will have on the couple’s sex life and marriage. Younger women who do not have children or women who still like to have more children may be deeply saddened for their loss of fertility.
Low mood, irritability and depression can occur during the hysterectomy recovery time and are known side effects of surgical menopause. Exercise can help to lift your mood. But if the feelings persist, it’s worth speaking to your doctor about getting support.
What to Wear During Hysterectomy Recovery?
Until your incision has fully healed, wearing comfortable clothing is a smart move. Anything that is too tight can be uncomfortable and potentially lengthen the time it takes for the incision to heal. You may also find it better to wear underwear that is a size larger than normal.
If you suffer from abdominal swelling, wearing your normal clothes can be very uncomfortable for the first few weeks. Try not to irritate the wound area with tight clothes. You can also look well in oversized tees, loose-fitting pants, jumpsuits and t-shirt dresses.
Eating and Drinking
To get back your strength and to help your body recover from the surgery you will have to eat healthy nutritious food. In order to prevent constipation, you will need plenty of fiber. You can find these in whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and citrus fruits.
While you are recovering, stock up on foods that promote healing. Vitamins A and C encourage wounds to heal so they are a great choice while your incision is healing. Zinc is also good for this. Vitamin K is important for blood clotting after surgery.