by Justina Hurley
So the surgery is over and now you are into the recovery phase.
In this series of articles we will look at the various stages you will go through as you recover from your hysterectomy, what you can expect and tips to help you fully recover.
The first step though is to acknowledge what you have experienced. Hysterectomy is major surgery. As well as losing one or several parts of your anatomy, you have had incisions, internal cauterisation or stitches, blood loss, anaesthesia and your other organs, especially your bladder and bowel, have been moved around, prodded and poked. The bladder is especially sensitive to trauma and so can take some time to settle down again after surgery.
You might have been asleep, but your body was there experiencing the whole thing and so afterwards it has a right to feel a bit traumatised, sore and sorry for itself.
Regardless of whether you had a simple, total or radical hysterectomy your hormones will be affected on some level. Even if you kept your ovaries you can still feel hormonal symptoms such as hot flushes or mood swings as the shock of surgery can temporarily shut your ovaries down until they have had time to recover and return to full function.
So on top of physical recovery, you may also have to deal with a certain amount of hormonal upheaval.
Shake it out!
After any shock to the body it is normal for the body to shake out the excess adrenalin once the shock is over. This is why we “tremble’ in fear! It’s just the same after surgery as the body experiences this as a shock.
About two to three days after surgery you can experience a day of shaking, shivering and crying. If you do that is excellent as it means that the shock is being processed and is leaving your system.
It might be an uncomfortable few hours but rather than medicating it away, the best approach is to really go with this and cry it out. You will feel so much better afterwards and it helps the body to begin the healing process.
Then there is the emotional aspect. There are many reasons for hysterectomy. For some it’s the end of a long history of pain and discomfort due to conditions like endometriosis and so for those who really were having physical issues prior to surgery, a hysterectomy can come as a relief and a new state of pain-free health that makes recovery a very easy process.
For others however, especially those who had to have a hysterectomy for medical reasons and who were still in child bearing years, there can be a real sense of loss and even grief for the full-stop a hysterectomy puts to the ability to have children. Many women also identify their femininity with their womb, menstrual cycle etc and so find it hard to adjust to this new, womb free version of themselves.
There are no right and wrongs and everyone will experience the process differently. The hope is that by following some of the tips in our Preparing for Hysterectomy section you will have had some time to work on dealing with any emotional feelings and attitudes you might have had towards your hysterectomy. And if you didn’t get that time to prepare, then it’s not too late to begin now.
Don’t listen to all those ‘I was back to work in a week’ stories!
If someone has a hysterectomy and they are back at work and a normal routine after a couple of weeks then they are being silly. The main reason that you are told to take it very easy for the first six weeks and to avoid heavy lifting for even longer is to prevent a bladder, bowel or vaginal prolapse.
With some of the minimally invasive methods such as Robotic Surgery, you can feel really good after just a couple of weeks but that is because you don’t have an abdominal scar to contend with. Internally, your body still had a major surgery and needs time to repair and heal.
For more extensive surgery, such as a radical hysterectomy you will need even more time to recover and you can expect to experience extreme fatigue for the first three months at least and it can take a full year to be back to 100% normal.
Use the time to recharge
Use your recovery time to recharge on every level. Take the pressure off yourself and understand that taking a minimum of six weeks off now is time well spent to ensure a long term recovery free of complications such as future prolapses or hernias.
Read, catch up with movies and old friends. Allow yourself to be taken for coffees, lunches and walks.
Reconnect with yourself. Take this time to do a little life exam and see if there are any things you’d like to change, add or improve in your life.
You can help the healing process by having treatments such as: reflexology, energy healing, mindfulness meditation, visualisations and gentle yoga as these all help both you and your body to de-stress and produce happy emotions which in turn boost the immune system.
Read the articles below which break down the recovery process into various stages. (Articles are added as they are written)