A hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure that may require a hospital stay. While this sounds overwhelming, many women experience significant relief from the health-related issued they experienced prior to surgery. A hysterectomy procedure may be performed laparoscopically, vaginally, or through an abdominal incision.
Let's dive deeper into what a hysterectomy is, what to expect, and how a belly binder may help during post-op recovery.
What is a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is a major surgery to remove the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. Sometimes a hysterectomy may be done only to remove the uterus, while others may remove the uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes.
Why have a hysterectomy?
Hysterectomies are often only considered after all other non-invasive treatments fail. There are many reasons a woman may need a hysterectomy to treat health problems affecting a woman's reproductive system.
Reasons for a hysterectomy include:
- Heavy periods
- Ovarian Cancer
- Uterine Cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Cancer of the Fallopian Tubes
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Prolapse of the uterus
How painful is recovery from a hysterectomy?
Depending on the procedure performed, recovering from a hysterectomy takes about four to six weeks. However, many women feel stronger every day with rest and light walking. A hysterectomy may cause soreness, swelling, and pain in your lower abdomen for several weeks after surgery. In addition, it is not uncommon to experience gas-related pains in your back and shoulders due to the gas used during surgery to help the surgeon see your organs better. Staying on top of your pain medications is essential to keep the pain and discomfort after surgery to a minimum.
Types of hysterectomy procedures
A partial Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus only and keep the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and cervix intact.
A Total Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus and cervix. This procedure may also include the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
A Radical Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and part of the vagina. In addition, in some cases, the surgeon may remove lymph nodes nearby.
If ovaries are removed during a hysterectomy, a woman may go into menopause shortly after surgery.
Tips for recovery after a hysterectomy
- Listen to your body and rest when you need to.
- Light walking every day may promote healing.
- Avoid going up and down the stairs too often. If you must go up and down the stairs, use a stair rail and climb up and down slowly as you build your strength.
- Avoid heavy lifting of anything over 20lbs for the first six weeks after surgery.
- Do not drive for the first two to three weeks while taking pain medication. It is crucial to always listen to your doctor's recommendations as to when you may safely resume driving.
It is normal to feel worried about how a hysterectomy may affect your sex life. However, allowing your body to heal and following your doctor's guidelines is essential for a successful recovery. Many doctors recommend waiting at least six weeks before inserting anything into your vagina. Tips for sex after a hysterectomy include:
- Six week waiting period is only a guideline. Every woman's recovery is unique; not everyone is ready to engage in sexual intercourse at six weeks, and some women wait until twelve weeks or longer.
- If you have ovaries removed, consider using lubrication. The removal of ovaries may lead to menopause. A symptom of menopause is vaginal dryness. Consider using a water-soluble lubricant because it contains more natural ingredients and fewer harsh chemicals.
- You may not submerge your body into water, such as bathtubs or pools, for at least six weeks.
- Your provider will instruct you on how to care for your incision correctly. Different types of hysterectomy procedures may result in different incision placements and sizes.
After a hysterectomy, it is essential to eat a well-balanced diet. You may not have much appetite during the first few days after surgery. Choose foods that are soft foods or liquids until you feel comfortable enough to eat solid foods.
Soft foods include:
- Chicken or Vegetable broth
- Fruit flavored gelatin
- Ginger Ale
- Boiled Vegetables
Foods to Avoid
Immediately after a hysterectomy, it is not uncommon to experience nausea due to the pain medications or the anesthesia. To avoid aggravating your digestive system, avoid these foods:
- Spicy Foods
- Acidic Foods
- Foods high in sodium
- Sour candy
- Fried foods
Drink plenty of fluids
Don't forget to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water after a hysterectomy. After the surgery, you may experience constipation and gas. Water may keep you hydrated and help flush out excess waste and reduce constipation. While everyone's water requirement is different, drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day is suggested.
When to Call the Doctor
You may want to call your doctor if
- Have a fever above 100.5°F
- Experience chest pain
- Find it hard to breathe
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Experiencing nausea or vomiting
What to Have Nearby After a Hysterectomy
It was more common in the past to stay at a hospital after a hysterectomy. However, after COVID, some doctors choose to send their patients home on the same day. Below is a list of items to have ready when you arrive home after a hysterectomy:
- Comfortable clothing with a loose waistband.
- A basket to put your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
- Doctor-recommended products to keep your incision clean.
- Gas relief medication.
- A reusable water bottle.
- A book or magazine to read.
Can I wear an abdominal belly binder after a hysterectomy?Yes! Always consult your physician to determine if an abdominal binder is best for you. Belly binders are very helpful after a hysterectomy to provide light compression and promote blood circulation to your abdomen. Belly Bandit® Patented design allows for five levels of customized compression. There are two heights: Regular, which is 11 inches tall in the front and 12 inches in the back; Petite, 9 inches tall in the front and 10 inches tall in the back. If you are looking for the ultimate recovery underwear with support and incision protection, then consider the c-section & postpartum recovery underwear. This underwear provides light compression to your abdomen to reduce swelling. In addition, there are silver-infused fibers that may help eliminate bacteria and odor while protecting your incision.
There are many benefits to using an abdominal binder after a hysterectomy, such as increased mobility and support to surrounding core muscles. Always check with your doctor if an abdominal binder is best for your recovery journey.