Hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, may be used to treat a variety of gynecologic cancers, including endometrial (uterine), ovarian, or cervical, or gestational trophoblastic disease. Like any major surgery, recovering from a hysterectomy, which may also include removal of the ovaries, cervix, and fallopian tubes, takes time. Here is some advice from the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber on recovering safely following a hysterectomy.
Balance activity with rest.
Walking is one of the best ways for the body to recover and heal. Start slow and always listen to your body. You may be more tired than you were before surgery, and may need to take breaks or naps throughout the day.
Avoid lifting objects heavier than 20 pounds for at least six weeks. Because of the procedure, and the pain medication that accompanies it, leg movements may be uncomfortable and your response time may be slower, so steer clear from driving for at least two weeks.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
A well-balanced diet is important for good health overall, especially when regaining strength following a surgery. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day and a diet of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Increasing your fiber intake will also help with constipation problems that may follow surgery. If constipation does occur, you can take stool softeners or gentle laxatives to manage it.
Keep your wound clean.
Properly caring for your wound will help your incision heal while preventing infection. Wash the incision area with warm water and soap each day and pat dry, but avoid fully submerging in a bathtub for four weeks following surgery. Keep an eye on your incision for redness, swelling, tenderness, or drainage, which may be signs of infection. Talk to your surgeon if you see any signs of infection or have a fever higher than 100.5.
Avoid sexual intercourse while healing.
Sexual activity is not advised for at least eight weeks following surgery; your surgeon will let you know once it is safe to resume sexual intercourse. Do not put anything, including tampons, in the vagina until being cleared by your doctor.
You may experience body changes.
After a hysterectomy, it is normal to have vaginal discharge, often bloody in the first few days, for up to eight weeks. You may also experience symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, if you had a total hysterectomy including removal of the ovaries. It’s also normal to feel depressed, have a decreased appetite, or feel more tired. If these feelings persist, speak with your surgeon.