Your Recovery after an Abdominal Hysterectomy
After your abdominal hysterectomy, you can expect to feel better and stronger each day, although you may need pain medicine for a week or two. You may get tired easily or have less energy than usual. This may last for several weeks after surgery. You will probably notice that your belly is swollen and puffy. This is common. The swelling will take several weeks to go down. It may take about 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover.
It is important to avoid lifting while you are recovering so that you can heal.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How to care for yourself at home after an Abdominal Hysterectomy?
- First of all, rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
- Avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
- Avoid strenuous activities, such as biking, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
- You may shower. Pat the cut (incision) dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- You will probably need to take 2 to 4 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
- Your doctor will tell you when you can have sex again.
- You can eat your normal diet after your abdominal hysterectomy. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
- You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fiber supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines after the abdominal hysterectomy.
- If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- Take your prescription medicines for pain as directed if you doctor prescribed any for you.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
- Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor’s instructions for removing the tape.
- Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- You may have some light vaginal bleeding after your abdominal hysterectomy. Wear sanitary pads if needed. Do not douche or use tampons.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if you:
- Passed out (lost consciousness).
- Have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
- Have severe pain in your belly.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if you:
- Have bright red vaginal bleeding that soaks one or more pads in an hour, or you have large clots.
- Have foul-smelling discharge from your vagina.
- Are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
- Have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- A fever.
- Experience pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- Have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- Have signs of a blood clot, such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
- Have trouble passing urine or stool, especially if you have pain or swelling in your lower belly.
- Have hot flashes, sweating, flushing, or a fast or pounding heartbeat.
Finally, watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.