It has been one month (give or take a few days) since my hysterectomy, and my brain is finally functioning at a somewhat normal level again to jot down my thoughts on healing and the recovery process. Before my surgery, I went down the rabbit hole of researching what to expect once I got home from the hospital. And while there are some great posts out there, it was a little bit too easy to discover horror stories – something I definitely didn’t need, as I already had a decent amount of anxiety leading up to my surgery date!
So for anyone who is considering a hysterectomy or curious about the surgery, recovery, and healing process, continue reading. For anyone who gets squeamish about period talk, poop talk, or doesn’t want to read “TMI”, feel free to close right out of this post! I promise I won’t be offended.
For starters… The recovery from my Laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH) procedure has been much easier and way less painful than I was anticipating. Take a deep breath and re-read that sentence again.
Week one. The highest pain level I had was experienced during the first four days post-op, and even that felt similar to my worst days of period cramps. I left the hospital the day of my procedure, took 2 doses of the prescribed pain pills, and from then on relied on 600 Mg of Motrin to dull the pain. Week one was by far the most uncomfortable, paired with not being able to sleep well at night and feelings of helplessness with being unable to complete even the simplest of things. Who would have thought that sitting upright, standing up, or sitting down would be so physically taxing?! Be prepared to spend a lot of time binge-watching your favorite shows, surpassing your screen time records on your phone, and sitting on the toilet (TAKE THE STOOL SOFTENERS!).
Week two brought better days and much less pain. I was able to walk (slowly, with short strides) a few laps up and down our small driveway, spent a lot of time between bed and the couch with my electric heating pad, and eased my way back into working from home on the laptop. Invest in some good comfy clothes, as waistbands will not be your friend for a little while. DON’T OVERDO IT. You will physically feel like you can do more than you should. Everyone will tell you this and you won’t listen until your body tells you and you learn the hard way. Compression underwear, although they’re not the cutest, will help with swelling and support during recovery this week and beyond.
Week three is a lot like week two, but with a few degrees of improvement every day. During week three, I started to be able to do more – simple cooking, doing the dishes (not loading/unloading the dishwasher quite yet as bending over still leads to a decent amount of discomfort), taking longer walks (still nothing too lengthy), etc. I was able to drive about a week after my surgery since I wasn’t taking narcotics, but don’t count on being able to drive for longer (>20 minute) distances just yet.
Week four is just beginning, and I am already feeling better than I have, which is to be expected! I’m still spotting, which seems like a cruel joke in a way after my almost non-stop bleeding over the last 3+ years, but my doctor assured me that this is normal and can be expected up to around 6 weeks post-op. I do notice the spotting more during the afternoons when I’m up and around being teacher/mom/wife/business owner, so I’ve been giving myself grace to have more downtime so I can hopefully heal faster. I’m looking forward to being able to exercise, wear jeans again, clean my house (never thought I’d say that!), and feel like a fully functioning human being. Knowing full healing is around the corner is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
Here are a few of my hysterectomy recovery must-haves:
- Cleansing bottle. If you’ve had the LAVH or a fully vaginal hysterectomy, ask for this at the hospital! You’ll need it to relieve burning while going to the bathroom for the first few days.
- Heating pad(s). I used two heating pads at the same time during the first week post-op: one on my abdomen and the other on the back of my neck and/or chest. I didn’t suffer from the gas pains too bad, but the heating pad on my neck and shoulders helped to keep them at bay. I highly recommend getting a good electric heating pad with different levels of heat. I still sleep with mine on low all night!
- Lots of pillows. It’s hard in the first week or so to sit upright on your own. Building yourself a little nest of pillows will help.
- Cough drops and plenty of fluids. Your throat might be scratchy and sore from the breathing tube they use during surgery. For me, this lasted roughly 3 days. I kept a bag of Lolleez cough drop lollipops on the nightstand and a full bottle of water at all times! Peppermint tea also helped to alleviate gas pains and give the digestive system a boost.
- Compression underwear. I bought these from Amazon and they have been a Godsend, starting in week two. The compression is just right to hold everything in and be supportive without restricting too much.
- Cozy clothes. You won’t want to wear your go-to leggings for a while, especially in the first few weeks when swelling is very much evident in your abdomen. Stock your dresser with sweatpants, soft pajamas, joggers for when you have to go out in public, and cozy jumpsuits!
- Sleep aid. I had the hardest time sleeping in the first week. (I’m a side sleeper and was forced to sleep on my back.) I turned to my essential oils to help me get some shut-eye. Find what works for you – your body will need rest to recover!
- Pads/panty-liners. It seems counterintuitive that you’d need these after getting your uterus removed, but women typically bleed for up to six weeks post-hysterectomy. In my experience, I needed a normal pad for 1-3 days and have been getting by with pantyliners ever since.
THANK YOU, again, to everyone who has been supportive throughout my healing journey! And if you are reading this in need of advice, solidarity, or a shoulder to lean on, please reach out by commenting below or sending me a message on Instagram: @kinandkindling.