Somewhere in the region of 57,000 women in the UK have a hysterectomy each year, and this number is increasing by at least a few thousand at each count.
During the weeks and months leading up to surgery, you will likely google sensible, obscure, quizzical and crucial questions, and the level of answers that you find will vary greatly.
Whatever your reasons for opting for a hysterectomy, there is a high chance that pain, discomfort, illness or disease are involved.
From more life threatening conditions like cancer and hemorrhaging after childbirth to the pain of Fibroids or Endometriosis. You will have your own personal experience and decision making process.
But, there are some details that no one really tells you or perhaps they do tell you, but can’t really set you up for what to expect, I mean there are a lot of variables from your personal pain threshold, the care you receive in hospital and how much pain you were in prior to the surgery and of course, your health.
Having had surgery before may also make you think that you know what to expect, but I will only say this once… It probably won’t!
In my seemingly short 38 years of life to this point now, I have had FOUR surgical procedures, one on my left knee and three on my abdomen.
One of these abdominal procedures was indeed a hysterectomy.
But before we carry on with what they don’t tell you, there are a few different types of hysterectomy, so your experience will depend on the chosen procedure.
Here’s the different options:
- Partial/Sub-total hysterectomy – the removal of just the uterus. Both ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix remain.
- Full Hysterectomy – removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes
- Oopherectomy or Bilateral Oopherectomy – removal of one or both of the ovaries
- Salpingoo or Bilateral Salpingoo – removal of one or both of the fallopian tubes
- Radical Hysterectomy – removal of all organs.
There are also three different ways in which the surgeon may perform the surgery, and this will again depend on your particular case and likely affect your recovery:
- Laparoscopic – key hole entry at 4 point of the abdominal wall.
- Vaginal – through vaginal entry the organs may be removed.
- Abdominal – 2-3 inch incision across the bikini line.
Vaginal is often the preferred method with fewer associated risks and generally better outcomes, however talk to your consultant if you are unsure or have any questions.
WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU!
As I mentioned above, I have had four surgeries, three of which on the abdomen, and one of those a hysterectomy.
Now being honest, I am laying in my hospital bed as I write this, and am not even 12 hours post-op yet, so not only am I speaking from experience, I am living this in real time. So, I will be adding to this blog over the coming days, as I am focusing on immediate post op recovery period.
I will also write a few blogs about recovery once home, preparing for your hospital stay and what to pack in your bag and a few more hopefully helpful topics as well.
But, for this blog, what they don’t tell you….
1. The Pain
At the moment you wake up it’s there!
It’s not an agonising pain, nor is it a sharp pain, in fact I think the best way to describe it is like Period Pain Plus!
Imagine period pain across your whole groin and lower tummy, consistently. Like a dull pain that is more a discomfort than anything. My advice is to make good use of the self administering pain relief pump, whether it’s morphine or oxycodone, don’t try and ride out the pain, just click away. That’s what it is there for.
I had a Radical hysterectomy with bilateral salpingoo and oopherectomy, so everything removed through an abdominal incision, but even if you have vaginal or laparoscopic surgeries, what has happened internally is still major surgery. Just be kind to yourself!
2. Constant urge to Wee/Catheter
For the first few hours after waking up I had an almost constant urge to pee, it reminded me of a UTI infection. Remember that you will have a catheter fitted, so for at least the first 24 hours you don’t need to be getting up and down for the loo.
Don’t fight the urge to wee, just relax and know that your bladder is doing what it needs to do.
Once your catheter is removed, go slowly. Don’t rush to go to the loo, just take it steady and remember to ask for help if you need it.
3. The sore throat
It’s a by product of most surgeries. A combination of mouth breathing, oxygen tubes and masks, intubation and so on.
If you can, sip cool water and don’t be tempted to cough to clear your throat unless you absolutely have to.
Try having a warm drink once you are allowed to help soothe the dryness.
Obviously leading up to your surgery you are not allowed to eat or drink. As much as skipping a meal or two is OK, not drinking takes its toll, especially if you had to wait a while once in hospital.
Sip at your water once you’re allowed. Small sips will better serve your body during these first few hours following surgery.
Anaesthetic leaves its mark on you for quite a while after waking up, don’t rush to stand or walk. Listen to your nurses and follow their advice.
I have had a “moment” following each surgery where I have felt dizzy, light headed, nauseous and as if I was going to pass out.
Just allow your body to settle back into normal rhythms and allow your blood pressure to return to normal. Just go slow!
6. Knees Up
Laying flat is really uncomfortable when you have had abdominal surgery, so ask your nurses for some extra pillows to put under your knees. Honestly it makes such a difference.
7. The Pain
Yes, the pain gets a second mention as it warrants the attention! Throughout my morning, the pain has changed from dull ache to barely there to quite intense ache and back to dull ache again… Ask for pain killers if you need them.
8. No Food
My consultant wouldn’t allow me to eat following the surgery, and to be honest I don’t think I’d have been able to eat either.
Each consultant will be different, but their advice is final. Listen because they know what they are doing!
9. Catheter Removal
OK, this feels weird! When the water is removed from inside the caterer it’s like a fluttering sensation which almost makes you want to pee. I expected it to hurt, but you barely feel the actual removal of the tube… Thank goodness!
Have a friend in hospital or at least have visitors. Time passes really slowly so make sure you have people to talk to, books to read, TV shows on your phone to watch etc. It will be a long stay otherwise.
11. The First Wee
It takes a while! Once your catheter is removed you nurses will monitor how much fluid you take in as well as how much you wee. But that first ginger visit to the loo can take a while.
Just take a few deep breaths and relax. Try and wait as long as you can to try and get all the urine out, the last thing you want is to keep having to get up & down.
12. No Appetite
As much as the hospital will bring you breakfast, lunch and dinner, you may find that your appetite is a little less than usual. Try and eat some food though, preferably something light so it doesn’t sit heavily in your gut.
If the hospital food isn’t very good, then ask a friend or family member to bring you something else.
Don’t go without. What you eat in these first few days is crucial for your recovery.
Having a hysterectomy is a major life changing procedure. It is so important that you slow down and listen to your body. Honour it!
This surgery is a huge stress to the body and its systems. Allow yourself time to heal both physically and mentally.
I hope that this blog helps you in your surgery, but if you have any questions feel free to contact me.
Thanks for reading 🙏
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Join HysterStrong today HERE. The online programme to help you prepare and recover from your Hysterectomy.
Or to find out more about the fantastic Goddess Lifestyle Programme, which reconnects you with your beautiful body and helps you fall in love with yourself, visit: The Goddess Lifestyle