A hysterectomy is a major surgery that involves removal of all or part of a woman's uterus, and sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes as well. After a hysterectomy, a woman will no longer menstruate or be able to become pregnant. Recovery time can take several weeks, during which you may not be able to do daily activities like chores, lifting anything heavy or even driving. This surgery has a big emotional and physical impact on many women, so it's important to prepare properly.
Know what the surgery entails. Talk to your doctor about exactly what will be removed during your hysterectomy, and what the effects will be. If you're having your ovaries removed, you may need to talk to your doctor about estrogen therapy to alleviate the symptoms of menopause that will occur after your surgery.
Get fit. The healthier you are and the better shape your body is in, the better prepared it will be to bounce back after a hysterectomy. Try to lose some weight if you're overweight, and begin a regular exercise routine of aerobic exercise to strengthen your heart. You should also quit smoking to make recovery easier, and consider taking an iron supplement to increase blood levels of this mineral. It's also important to relax and get plenty of rest in the days and weeks leading up to the hysterectomy, so that your body is strong and prepared to heal and protect itself from infection after the surgery.
Ask your doctor about your current medications. You may need to stop taking some medications prior to the surgery to prevent complications and interactions with the anesthesia. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be particularly harmful as they may prevent the blood from clotting after surgery, so be sure you tell your doctor about every medication--both prescription and over-the-counter--that you take, and follow instructions on what to stop before the surgery.
Prepare for anesthesia. Talk to your doctor and your anesthesiologist about any health conditions or allergies you have that could cause a problem with your anesthesia. Be sure to bring up lung disease or heart disease if you have them, and any previous problems you've had with anesthesia. Also mention any drug allergies that you know that you have.
Prepare for your recovery time. If you have an abdominal hysterectomy, your recovery time will take longer and be more difficult because of the large incision. The National Women's Health Information Center notes that you can expect a recover of between four and eight weeks for an abdominal hysterectomy. A vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy, which is less invasive, requires a recovery period of only one to two weeks. No matter what type of surgery you have, it will take about six weeks for you to be able to take a bath (instead of a shower) and engage in sexual intercourse.
Ask about the risks. Talk to your doctor about the possible complications and risks associated with having a hysterectomy. The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists possible complications of surgery including blood clots, infection, difficulty breathing and having an allergy to some of the medications. After hysterectomy, possible complications include damage done to organs near the uterus. Some women may also experience painful intercourse.
Prepare for the hospital stay and heading home. Typically, you stay in the hospital for two to three days; perhaps more or less depending on the type of hysterectomy surgery you had. Because you'll likely be in pain, you'll have pain medications in the hospital and some to take home with you. You'll also have to start doing some light walking as soon as possible--even in the hospital. You'll need someone at home to help you around the house when you are discharged from the hospital, as you may be too tired or sore to take care of yourself, make your meals or walk up and down stairs.
Prepare emotionally. Some women have a difficult time accepting that they can no longer have children and will no longer menstruate. Other women are concerned about their sex drive and ability to have sex after the hysterectomy. Generally, sexual function is about the same as it was before the surgery, but talk to your doctor about your concerns.
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Talk to your doctor about other possibilities to treat your condition besides hysterectomy, and see if there is another alternative.
If you experience any fever, signs of infection at your incision or illness after your hysterectomy, call your doctor immediately.