So you need a hysterectomy. What does this mean for your future, your health, and menopause? A hysterectomy is the second most common surgery for women in the United States (the first being a Cesarean section for childbirth). There are about 500,000 hysterectomies performed on women each year, and we should know how a hysterectomy affects our daily lives. It’s important to know what to expect after the surgery to make an informed decision that’s right for each of us.
Preparing yourself mentally and physically will make your recovery more manageable, and you’ll know what to expect each step of the way. Taking time to prepare your house and following your doctor’s tips will ease your fears of surgery and prepare you for a speedy recovery.
Research Your Procedure
Gathering all the information you can about the type of surgery you’ll be having may seem daunting, but you should know what will happen to your body. There are different types of hysterectomies, and different ways to have the surgery, including abdominal surgery, laparoscopic, and robotic. You may have questions for your doctor that you hadn’t thought of before, but are now ready to have answered.
Our own Dr. Lynn Kowalski has performed countless surgeries over the years since she founded the Nevada Surgery and Cancer Center in 2005. She encourages patients to bring in a list of questions they have to ask their doctor about the procedure and the healing process. Here is an essential checklist to help you get started and inspire you to come up with your own questions to ask your doctor:
- Which organs and structures do you plan to remove?
- Will you be using an abdominal, vaginal, or laparoscopic technique? Can you explain the pros and cons of each method?
- Why are you recommending this type of hysterectomy rather than one of the many other types of hysterectomies?
- How long should I expect to be in surgery and the hospital afterward?
- Will the surgery you are recommending cause menopause?
- Is this surgery a cure, or just a treatment?
- Will I continue to need regular pap smears after a hysterectomy?
- How long after surgery will treatment be delayed for my cancer while I heal from this procedure?
- When will it be safe to have sex after surgery?
- When will I be able to take a bath or swim after surgery?
For more question ideas and recommendations, visit surgery.com.
Make Sure You’re Healthy Enough for Surgery
Do you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea? Discuss with your doctor any conditions or medications you take. Your doctor will need to ensure that these are under control to deem you a safe candidate for hysterectomy surgery. If you are overweight, your doctor may schedule the surgery a few months out so that you can lose weight to lower risks with blood loss, anesthesia, or other complications. If you smoke, it’s imperative that you quit immediately. Smokers have problems breathing during surgery and heal much slower than non-smokers.
Prepare for Medical Leave at Work
You may need two to six weeks before you can return to work, especially if you work long hours on your feet. Fill out the necessary paperwork and notify your superiors.
Get your Post-Op Prescriptions Ahead of Time
Rather than going to the pharmacy right after surgery in a pained and weakened state, ask your doctor if you can get any prescriptions filled early. Alternatively, you may make arrangements for a family member or friend to pick them up after the surgery.
Make Your Home Comfortable
Prepare frozen meals, casseroles, and easy-to-make dishes beforehand so that you don’t have to labor in the kitchen. If you live in a multi-story home, consider setting up your living quarters on the first floor to avoid going up and down those stairs. It may be too much for you following surgery. Move furniture around to be more accessible, and prepare a safe spot on your couch or bed where you’ll allow yourself plenty of time to rest and recover.
Reach Out to Your HysterSisters
Talking with others about their recovery can help you prepare both mentally and emotionally. HysterSisters can give you the advice you may not have considered, like keeping extra pillows and a large water bottle by the bed. Surgery can be scary, but knowing that many other women have come out of it happy and healthy is sure to help calm your nerves.
Drink Plenty of Fluids and Eat Well
Drinking broths, water, tea, coffee, etc. will help prevent constipation, which can be painful after an abdominal surgery like a hysterectomy. However, limit your consumption of energy drinks like Powerade. While they do have electrolytes, they’re also loaded with sugar. Eating balanced meals of protein, fruits, and veggies gives your body the vitamins and nutrients needed to heal your body. Throw out the junk food, even if it is your comfort food when you’re not feeling well.
Accept Help from Others
Find someone that will pick you up from the hospital and take you home after the surgery. If you live alone, ask a friend or family member to check on you at home and call or text you every few hours. Your doctor may advise you against driving for up to two weeks, so if you must go somewhere, arrange for someone else to drive you. If someone offers to babysit, clean, or make a meal for you, accept the help without guilt. You deserve a full and restful recovery, and surely others want to help you have that, too.
Preparing for a hysterectomy surgery takes planning and research. The more you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the operation, the easier it will be to bounce right back.
Minimally Invasive Hysterectomy at NVSCC
Dr. Kowalski specializes in minimally invasive robotic surgery using the Da Vinci Surgery System to leave few scars and a faster recovery time for the patient. She has performed over 1,000 robotic hysterectomy surgeries. Dr. Kowalski is experienced and compassionate. If you need a hysterectomy, contact us at Nevada Surgery and Cancer Center (NVSCC) to schedule an appointment.