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Hysterectomy: Your Experience

In most cases, a hysterectomy takes 1 to 3 hours. Knowing what to expect before and after surgery can help reduce any fears you may have. It also helps you prepare. Be sure to follow any instructions your health care provider gives you.

Before the Day of Surgery

A few weeks before surgery, you may be asked to:

  • Stop smoking.

  • Donate your own blood. This is in case you need to receive blood (a transfusion) during surgery.

As the day of surgery grows closer, you may be asked to:

  • Have blood, urine, and other tests.

  • Stop taking certain medications.

  • Sign a consent form for the surgery.

  • Stop eating and drinking after midnight the night before surgery.

At the Hospital

Healthcare provider holding woman's arm, walking down hospital hallway.
Walking soon after surgery helps you recover faster.

  • An IV line may be used to provide fluids and medications, such as antibiotics. During the hysterectomy, you will receive anesthesia to keep you pain-free.

  • After surgery, you’ll spend a few hours in the recovery room. Then you’ll be moved to a hospital room, where you will build up your strength. The length of your stay depends on the type of surgery you had.

  • You may spend up to a few days in the hospital. While there, ask your health care provider any questions you may have. For the first days after surgery, here is what you can expect:

    • The abdominal incision may be closed with stitches or staples. It is covered with gauze. Any staples may be removed during your hospital stay or at a follow-up visit.

    • Pain can be relieved with medication prescribed by your health care provider.

    • Urination may be aided by a tube (catheter). It is put in your bladder during surgery. In most cases, it is taken out a day or two after surgery.

    • Vaginal bleeding is likely. You will need to use sanitary pads.

    • Meals may be limited to liquids until your bowels are back to normal.

    • Your lungs need to be kept clear of excess fluid. This prevents problems such as pneumonia. You will be shown how to clear your lungs.

Recovery at Home

Healing takes time. How much time depends on your health and the type of surgery you had. Expect it to be 3 to 8 weeks before you feel really well. During that time, you can do a lot to make sure that you regain your health and energy.

Take Care of Yourself

These tips can help you heal.

  • Take showers instead of baths.

  • Use pads to absorb bleeding or discharge. Light bleeding is likely at first. Brownish discharge may last up to 6 weeks.

  • Do not use tampons or douches. They can cause the vagina to become infected.

  • Do not have sex for as long as your health care provider suggests (most likely 6 to 8 weeks).

  • To avoid constipation, eat fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Drink at least 8 glasses of fluid each day.

  • Tell your health care provider if you feel down or have mood swings. You may be adjusting to the changes in your body. You may also have mood swings if your ovaries were removed and you hadn’t yet reached menopause. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help.

  • Avoid tasks or movements that can strain your incision, such as lifting or bending.

  • Ask your doctor when you can drive. The type of work or exercise that you do affects how soon you can return to those activities.

 Call Your Doctor if You Have:

  • Fever or chills

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or a smelly discharge

  • Redness, bleeding, or discharge at the incision site

  • Pain or swelling in your legs

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain

  • Severe abdominal or pelvic pain

Follow-up Care

Be sure to keep follow-up visits after your hysterectomy. That way your health care provider can make sure you’re healing well. Also:

  • If your ovaries were removed and you’re having symptoms of menopause, tell your health care provider. You might want to discuss hormone therapy.

  • If you had cancer, ask your health care provider about any further treatment you may need.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 9/26/2014
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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