After a hysterectomy, you will have a brief recovery time in the hospital. Your recovery time at home -- before you can get back to all your regular activities -- will vary depending on the procedure you had.
Abdominal hysterectomy. Most women go home 2-3 days after this surgery, but complete recovery takes from six to eight weeks. During this time, you need to rest at home. You shouldn't do any tasks until you talk with your doctor about restrictions. Don't do any lifting for the first two weeks. Walking is encouraged, but no heavy lifting. After 6 weeks, you can get back to your regular activities, including having sex.
Vaginal or laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH). A vaginal hysterectomy is less surgically invasive than an abdominal procedure, and recovery can be as short as two weeks. Most women come home the same day or the next. Walking is encouraged, but not heavy lifting. You will need to abstain from sex for at least 6 weeks.
Laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy (LSH). This procedure is the least invasive and can have a recovery period as short as six days to two weeks. Walking is encouraged, but not heavy lifting.
Robotic hysterectomy. The surgeon's movements are mimicked by robotic arms that make small incisions to remove the uterus. Most women come home the next day. If the cervix is removed, you will have the same restrictions as you would have for an LAVH.
Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms with any type of hysterectomy:
- Fever or chills
- Heavy bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge
- Severe pain
- Redness or discharge from incisions
- Problems urinating or having a bowel movement
- Shortness of breath or chest pain
Your Hysterectomy Recovery
For most women, life without a uterus means relief from the symptoms that caused them to have a hysterectomy -- bleeding, pelvic pain, and abdominal bloating. With relief from those symptoms, women may have better sex -- with greater libido, frequency, and enjoyment.
Yet if the ovaries were removed, there are a few more challenges ahead. If you had not gone through menopause before your hysterectomy, you probably will begin having symptoms of menopause -- hot flashes and mood swings. Your body is adjusting to changes in hormone levels. You may also have some changes in sexual desire and enjoyment, and vaginal dryness. Most women begin hormone replacement therapy before they leave the hospital, because bodily changes can be so drastic.
You may feel a sense of loss. You may grieve over the loss of your uterus and your ability to have children. If you had surgery because of illness or cancer, you may feel depressed. These feelings are normal. Talk to your doctor and a mental health therapist about them. Most women, however, are happy after their hysterectomy.
Treating Side Effects of Hysterectomy
If your ovaries were removed with the uterus, you may want to consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease some symptoms. Your age and medical history are factors to consider when deciding on HRT. Talk it over with your doctor.
There are non-hormonal treatments that can help. Effexor and other SSRI antidepressants, Clonidine (a blood pressure medication), and Neurontin (prescribed for seizures and chronic pain), have been found to be effective in treating hot flashes.
Some women experience pain during intercourse after a hysterectomy. It helps to try different positions and lubricants and moisturizers (like K-Y oils or Replens). A low-dose vaginal estrogen cream, suppository or ring can also help relieve vaginal dryness.
Pelvic weakness sometimes develops after a hysterectomy. If you had some pelvic weakness before surgery, it may get worse afterward -- leading to bladder or bowel problems. Kegel exercises can help strengthen pelvic muscles to help control urinary incontinence problems. For some women, corrective surgery is necessary.