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6 Tips to Ease Your Hysterectomy Recovery

If you have chronic pelvic pain or abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy to ease your discomfort.  

With over 600,000 procedures performed each year, hysterectomies are the most common nonpregnancy-related surgery for women and involve removing the uterus, the cervix, and in some cases, the ovaries and fallopian tubes. 

Why Have a Hysterectomy? 

There are several medical conditions for which your doctor might recommend a hysterectomy. The most common ones include

  • Heavy or abnormal vaginal bleeding. This can be the result of changes in hormones, infections or benign tumors that grow in and around the uterus, called uterine fibroids.

  • Endometriosis. A condition that occurs when cellular tissue from your uterus grows outside the womb and attaches to other parts of your body, such as fallopian tubes, bladder or ovaries.

  • The opposite condition, adenomyosis, is when tissue grows on the interior walls of the uterus. Both problems cause severe pain and heavy bleeding.

  • Uterine prolapse. This happens when the muscles and tissue in the pelvis weaken, allowing your uterus to drop down into your vagina. Most common among women who have had multiple vaginal births, who are obese or who are post-menopausal.

  • Cancer (or precancer) of the uterus, ovary or cervix. A hysterectomy may be prescribed in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation treatments. 

Choosing a Hysterectomy Option 

There are two primary surgical options for hysterectomies – open and minimally invasive – with the method recommended based on factors such as:

  • Type and severity of your medical condition

  • Accessibility to the uterus

  • Size and shape of the vagina and uterus

  • Patient preference 

Open hysterectomies involve an external incision on your lower abdomen, giving your surgeon a clear view of the pelvic organs. While still a highly used procedure, the increased risk and longer recovery times mean it is now recommended primarily for cases where uterine or fibroid size is an issue. 

Minimally invasive hysterectomies involve small or no external incisions, lowering the risk of infection, pain and recovery time. Procedure options include:

  • Vaginal hysterectomy: The uterus is removed through the vagina, with no abdominal incisions. Women with a large uterus or adhesions from previous surgeries may not be a good candidate for this option.

  • Laparoscopic hysterectomy: This option uses a laparoscope inserted through small abdominal incisions to see the pelvic organs.

  • Robotic hysterectomy: Extending beyond laparoscopic, this robotic-assisted procedure provides a magnified, three-dimensional view, which enhances the surgeon’s precision and control. 

6 Tips to Ease Hysterectomy Recovery 

Medical advancements and protocols have reduced complications, and long-acting anesthetics help decrease pain, but all forms of hysterectomies are serious, non-reversable surgeries. Recovery will take several weeks and comes with common-sense restrictions:

  • Rest, but don’t lie on the couch all day. Gentle movement and walking are recommended soon after surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots.

  • Don’t lift anything heavy. Your incisions, both internal and external, need time to heal without added strain. This includes heavy housework, weight-lifting, strenuous exercise and even carrying your children.

  • Take care of your incision. You will be sent home with detailed wound care instructions to avoid bacterial infections. You should also avoid swimming in pools, lakes and oceans.

  • No sexual intercourse until the doctor gives you the OK (usually about six weeks after surgery). Physical damage can occur both internally and externally, and it increases your susceptibility to infection.

  • Keep your hormones in check. Especially important if your hysterectomy requires removal of your ovaries and induces menopause.

  • Eat healthy and drink lots of water. To help ease post-surgical constipation include fiber and fresh fruit in your diet. 

Hysterectomies are a highly effective solution to a number of pelvic issues, but because they leave permanent changes to your reproductive ability, are generally prescribed only when less-severe options have been exhausted. 

And while additional conditions such as bladder and urinary issues or pelvic floor weakness can be affected by uterus removal, more often a hysterectomy results in an improvement of function. Together, you and your doctor can determine the path and procedure which is right for you.

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