What to Expect During and After a Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus, is the second most common type of surgery among women.

A hysterectomy is most often recommended to treat cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, uterine prolapse, and prolonged abnormal uterine bleeding. The specifics of the procedure and your recovery time can vary based on the type of hysterectomy, but the following will give you a basic understanding of what to expect during and after the procedure.

Understanding the Terminology

There are three basic types of hysterectomies:

  • Subtotal (or supracervical) hysterectomy – This type is the least invasive and removes just the uterus.

  • Total hysterectomy – This type of hysterectomy removes both the uterus and the cervix.

  • Total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – This type is the most invasive and removes all reproductive parts, including the cervix, uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

The Hysterectomy Procedure

Before your surgery, you will be asked to shower using a special cleanser designed to reduce the chances of infection. You will also receive IV antibiotics to reduce the risk of post-operative infection and sedation to help you relax. A urinary catheter will be inserted to ensure that the bladder remains empty. This will remain in place for a short time following the procedure.

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and typically takes 1 to 2 hours to complete. The technique used to perform the hysterectomy can vary depending on the reason for the surgery. An abdominal hysterectomy requires the largest incision, is the most invasive, and requires the longest hospital stay and recovery time. A vaginal or laparoscopically-assisted vaginal hysterectomy and a laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy are less invasive and offer a quicker recovery time. Some hysterectomies can also be performed robotically.

Depending on the surgical technique used, your hospital stay may range from overnight up to a couple of days.

Immediately Following a Hysterectomy

It's normal to experience some pain and discomfort following a hysterectomy. Your surgeon will prescribe pain medication to help minimize your discomfort. It's also common to experience some vaginal discharge and bleeding following the procedure, so you may need to wear a pad for several weeks.

The Recovery Period

Complete recovery following a hysterectomy can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks based on the type of procedure. It's important to start walking as soon as possible after your surgery to reduce the risk of dangerous blood clots. You'll need to refrain from heavy lifting, strenuous activity, and sexual intercourse for a while following the procedure. Your surgeon will let you know when it's safe to resume these activities.

You should contact your doctor if you experience

  • redness or discharge at the incision site
  • unusual vaginal discharge or persistent heavy bleeding
  • difficulty having a bowel movement or urinating
  • chest pain or shortness of breath
  • severe pain
  • fever or chills

The Physical and Emotional Effects of a Hysterectomy

Most women experience an improved quality of life following a hysterectomy since they are free from the symptoms that led them to have the surgery. If your hysterectomy also involves removing your ovaries, you'll most likely experience immediate menopause.

As your body adjusts to the decreased hormone levels, you may experience hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and decreased libido. Hormone replacement therapy and non-hormonal medications can help alleviate these symptoms.

Women of childbearing age may also experience a sense of loss or depression over the inability to have children. If you experience these symptoms, you should talk to your women's doctor or a mental health professional.

Innovative Hysterectomy Technology in North Florida

At All About Women we have state-of-the-art technology and procedures available with the da Vinci Surgical System that can make a hysterectomy much easier and the recovery period much shorter. With offices in Gainesville and Lake City, we specialize in serving the women of North Florida.

To learn more, make an appointment with our gynecologists to discuss the best treatment options for you.