TLDR: This article is based on Rachel’s experience recovering from the surgery and is about what not to do after a hysterectomy to recover well.
Dont want to read this one? Let me read it out to you!
First of all, a really quick overview of what a hysterectomy actually is: The NHS defines a hysterectomy as “a surgical procedure to remove the womb (uterus).” However, there are actually different types of hysterectomy, some that remove more than the womb.
A total hysterectomy removes the womb and cervix, a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy removes the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries, and a radical hysterectomy removes the womb and surrounding tissues.
This surgery can be performed by keyhole or open stomach surgery. I had a laparoscopic total hysterectomy, which means it was done by keyhole. I have also had laparotomy surgery before, and the recovery for that is very different, if you are having open stomach surgery you should read my recovering from a laparotomy blog.
I’m Rachel, I had my surgery 3 years ago and I’ve learned a few things about recovery from this procedure. In this article, I’ll share with you what not to do after a hysterectomy so you can learn from my experience before you head into your operation and aftercare.
My experience with hysterectomy
I think I’m pretty qualified to share my experience of what not to do after a hysterectomy after I had one when I was 30. I go into more detail about my experience and why I had it on my blog about my experience having a hysterectomy. I also made this video diary of my recovery, if you would prefer to watch something.
If you are wondering how to support your partner after surgery I have written advice for husbands after a hysterectomy here
Common mistakes after a hysterectomy
Not recruiting help
This is top of my list because if you are wondering what not to do after a hysterectomy and have kids, this is so important.
If you have children, then you need to consider childcare. I had an 18-month-old at the time of my surgery so I had help from my mum and husband. It wasn’t only for help with lifting and putting him in the pushchair, I was so tired that I needed to rest and park trips were out of the question.
Get as much help as you can with the kids. Pay babysitters if you don’t have family nearby. Keeping up with the constant demands of little people can really take its toll – even more so when you’ve just had surgery!
When you’re searching what not to do after a hysterectomy you’d probably think it is obvious not to ignore pain after surgery. But, when you are someone who puts yourself last on the list and feel like you don’t want to trouble the doctors, it can easily be done. Make sure you follow the doctor’s advice on pain relief, even if you don’t feel like you need it.
Too much physical activity
Overdoing physical activities after surgery is a no go. I lost my cat a few days post op and was roaming around handing out flyers with his details on. This was far too much activity and I really wouldn’t recommend it! Make sure you have a good box set to watch – and don’t lose your cat.
Don’t miss your follow up appointments. Put everything in your calendar with reminders to go off much earlier than they usually would. It takes longer to do everything when you’re sore. Make sure you have a lift to appointments too as you won’t be able to drive and the bus could be too much.
The importance of post op rest
Above, in the what not to do after a hysterectomy section, we’ve covered not to overdo physical activities. But this isn’t just in the first couple of weeks. I didn’t go back to the gym for 8 weeks, and when I did I took it really easy and got plans from a qualified PT who knew my situation. Most people will tell you that lifting heavy weights is what not to do after a hysterectomy.
Abdominal hysterectomy has a longer recovery time than keyhole, but it’s really important to listen to the doctor when they talk about taking it easy. Even if you feel fine in yourself, your body has gone through a lot with surgery and hormonal changes.
Getting a decent sleep is also a really important part of your recovery, studies prove it. I was having lots of naps and made sure I got early nights. You might feel worried at first that if you struggle with sleep this will be you forever, and you’re getting old but try not to worry. I wrote a lot more about rapid ageing after a hysterectomy and what you can do here.
Physical activity ideas after a hysterectomy
I found it hard to rest, to be honest. I knew what not to do after a hysterectomy would be things like boot camps, heavy lifting, and HIIT training, but I needed to move a little. I’m a very restless person.
After a few weeks, I started doing some slow walks to the shops or sea front. I did a few simple yoga poses too – it felt great to stretch. I didn’t do anything that tired me out too much and certainly no heavy lifting.
Why avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise post op?
Lifting heavy things, whether it’s weights at the gym or shopping bags, is a no-no after any type of surgery and a hysterectomy is no different. Lifting weight puts tension and strain on your wound which may cause them to open. After surgery I felt like I had a really weak core, something that you need to support yourself when lifting.
Retuning to work after surgery
I was working for myself, so very lucky to be quite relaxed when it came to working. Even though it isn’t physical work can be mentally draining after major surgery so for me I would suggest work would be what not to do after a hysterectomy. I had my computer at home to try and work, but I wasn’t in the right headspace and that is totally understandable.
I went back into the office after 2 weeks and felt fine doing so. I would advise taking as much time as you can off, even if you aren’t in a physical job.
Proper wound care
Here’s what not to do after a hysterectomy for you – don’t neglect your wound!
The doctor told me how to keep the site clean to avoid infection. I was told to change the dressings every day, wash with a mild soap and warm water, and avoid baths for 6-8 weeks. My wound was tiny as it was keyhole and easy to keep on top of. I’ve had other stomach surgeries which required more upkeep.
Infection can really set back recovery and make you feel pretty rubbish. I got an infection from the hospital and was given a course of antibiotics which then led to thrush. I quickly noticed the effects of the menopause along with the antibiotics – I didn’t have a happy vagina! Enter probiotics! I also ate live yogurt and enjoyed the benefits of not wearing underwear.
Managing pain after surgery
After surgery it can feel pretty sore. Ibuprofen and paracetamol were a Godsend. I was told to use them around the clock, even if I didn’t feel I needed it at the time. I also found deep breathing techniques, distraction, and CBD oil helped manage my pain.
The doctor did tell me that if the pain got too much to get back in touch. It could be a sign of a problem, so don’t delay if you’re feeling more than uncomfortable. Trust your instincts.
What not to do after a hysterectomy
After a hysterectomy it’s not ideal to lift anything, take on too much (childcare or even work!), exercise, or skip appointments. Make sure you are following doctors orders and taking pain meds and any antibiotics that have been prescribed. Veering from the after care plan can really set you back in your recovery so it’s in the best interests to take it easy and take the meds.
Don’t see yourself as a burden and don’t be a hero. If something doesn’t feel right or look right, get it checked.
If you like this blog and are facing surgery, you might find the following interesting:
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