Having a hysterectomy, which involves the surgical removal of the uterus (womb), is a life-changing operation for a woman. After the procedure, you are likely to experience both physical and emotional changes and challenges.
The length of time it will take before you are well enough to leave the hospital, as well as the recovery time at home, depends on the type of hysterectomy, your age, and your general level of health.
Many women feel a sense of loss and sadness after having a hysterectomy, particularly if they are still of child-bearing age. If you have your ovaries removed and are not yet menopausal, you are likely to experience sudden-onset menopause which can be distressing. Most of these adverse side effects can fortunately be addressed with counselling or medication.
Physical Recovery After Hysterectomy
After a hysterectomy, you will have a brief recovery time in the hospital, normally 1 – 4 days depending on the type of procedure performed. Following your release from hospital you will need to spend time at home recovering before returning to work and resuming your regular activities. Recovery time could be up to 6 weeks as your abdominal muscles and the surrounding tissues need time to heal.
Your physical recovery will vary depending on the type of surgical procedure performed.
Each woman will have a unique scenario and recommendation from their medical team. There are multiple different types of surgeries performed for a hysterectomy, including abdominal hysterectomies, vaginal hysterectomies and more.
Most women are discharged from the hospital 2-3 days after surgery, with a complete recovery taking from six to eight weeks. You need to rest at home during this time and should follow your doctor’s instructions. It is especially important not to attempt any lifting for the first two weeks and no heavy lifting for 6 weeks. Heavy lifting could include carrying bags of shopping. Walking is allowed and encouraged. After 6 weeks, you can usually resume your regular activities, including having sex.
Vaginal Or Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy (LAVH)
Because a vaginal hysterectomy is less surgically invasive than a traditional abdominal procedure, recovery can be as quick as two weeks. Most women are discharged from the hospital the same day or the next. Walking is encouraged, but not heavy lifting. You should abstain from sex for at least 6 weeks.
Laparoscopic Supracervical Hysterectomy (LSH)
This procedure is the least invasive of all hysterectomies and can have a recovery period as rapidly as 1 – 2 weeks. Walking is encouraged, but not heavy lifting.
When To Seek Urgent Medical Care After A Hysterectomy
You should call your doctor or seek urgent medical assistance if you have any of these symptoms after any type of hysterectomy:
- Fever or chills
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Heavy bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge (slight discharge is expected for up to 6 weeks)
- Severe pain
- Redness or discharge from operating incisions (cuts)
- Problems urinating or having a bowel movement
Side Effects Of A Hysterectomy
Knowing the side effects plays a crucial role in preparing yourself for recovery. Some common side effects after getting a hysterectomy include bowel and bladder issues, emotional changes and more.
Bowel And Bladder Problems
After your operation, you may experience some changes in your bowel and bladder functions.
Some women develop urinary tract infections or constipation after surgery. Both can easily be treated. It is advised that you drink plenty of fluids and increase the fruit and fibre in your diet to improve your bowel and bladder movements. For the first few days after a hysterectomy, you may need laxatives to help you avoid straining while passing a stool.
Most women find freedom from the symptoms that caused them to have a hysterectomy, including bleeding, pelvic pain, and abdominal bloating. With relief from those symptoms, women often experience a better quality of life including more enjoyable sex and improved libido.
Although most women feel relieved after a hysterectomy, some women experience a sense of loss as they are no longer able to have children. Feeling depressed is particularly common in women with advanced cancer, who have no other treatment option. It is important to speak to your doctor or a mental healthcare professional if you are struggling with depression after having a hysterectomy.
It is normal to experience some vaginal bleeding and discharge after a hysterectomy. This should be less discharge than during a period and may last up to 6 weeks. You should contact your doctor if you experience heavy vaginal bleeding, start passing blood clots or have a strong-smelling discharge.
If you had not gone through menopause before your hysterectomy, you probably will begin having symptoms of menopause. Symptoms include hot flashes, sweating, loss of libido, vaginal dryness and mood swings. Most women begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after their hysterectomy which alleviates most of these unpleasant symptoms. HRT can be given in the form of an implant, injections, transdermal patches or tablets.
Regaining Your Routine
Returning To Work
How long it takes for you to return to work depends on how you feel as well as the kind of work you do. If your job does not involve heavy lifting or manual work, you will probably be able to return after 6 to 8 weeks. Your doctor will advise you when you can return to work.
You should not drive until you are comfortable wearing a seatbelt and can successfully carry out an emergency stop. This could range from 2 to 6 weeks after your operation.
Exercise And Lifting
Before your dispatch from the hospital, your healthcare professional should provide you with advice about suitable forms of exercise while you recover. Walking is always recommended, but you should not lift any heavy objects during your recovery.
After a hysterectomy, it is generally recommended that you do not have sex until your scars have healed and any vaginal discharge has stopped, which usually takes at least 4 to 6 weeks.
You may experience some vaginal dryness if you have had your ovaries removed and are not taking HRT.
It is no longer necessary to use contraception to prevent pregnancy after having a hysterectomy although you will still need to use condoms to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).