How Long Does Recovery Take?
As any hysterectomy procedure is a major surgery, recovery does take time. It usually takes even longer if the operation was carried out because of cancer. You will need to be patient and follow your doctor’s advice. If he tells you to avoid driving or going back to work for 5 or 6 weeks, plan for this well in advance of your operation. The last thing you need when you come out of hospital is additional stress. Although you might feel better than expected by week 2, avoid the temptation to push yourself too soon. While you might feel better on the outside, your insides need longer to recover, and any sudden movement or pressure could cause internal bleeding or tears, setting you back. The following is an average timeline to work with:
Abdominal Hysterectomy Recovery Timeline
The hospital stay on average is 3 to 5 days.
Pain After Operation: You will probably require morphine given intravenously or injected for about 48 hours to relieve pain.
Mobility: You can shower and walk short distances within 24 to 36 hours.
At Home: The normal recovery period takes up to 6 weeks (assuming you do not experience any hysterectomy complications) before you can resume full activity.
Work: Most women are able to return to non-strenuous jobs between 4 and 6 weeks.
Vaginal or Laparoscopic Surgery Recovery Timeline
The hospital stay is usually 1 to 3 days.
Pain After Operation: Most women only require oral painkillers.
Mobility: You can shower and walk short distances within 24 hours.
At Home: The recovery period takes up to 4 weeks before you can resume full normal activity.
Work: Most women are able to return to non-strenuous jobs after about 3 to 4 weeks.
In the recovery period for all types of hysterectomy you should get plenty of rest and avoid lifting heavy objects for 6 weeks. As a rule, if it hurts, stop!
Recovery At Hospital
Urinary Catheter: During the operation you will be fitted with a urinary catheter which will be left in place for 24 hours during the recovery period. You will be quite sore, so being catheterized eliminates the need for trips to the toilet. Instead your urine will pass through a tube into a bag at your side which the nurse can empty.
Intravenous Drip: You will be attached to a saline intravenous drip for about 24-48 hours. This is to help you rehydrate after the anesthesia. You will also be encouraged to drink plenty of water.
Painkillers: Women who undergo an abdominal hysterectomy will be hooked up to a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA). This device allows the patient to self-administer painkillers intravenously. Studies show that patients who self-administer tend to choose lower dosages of morphine than if it is administered by a health worker.
Drainage Tube: If you had abdominal surgery a drainage tube might be left in place for 48 hours to drain any blood which collects.
Anti-Blood Clotting Socks: Also called antiembolic stockings, these are thick full length socks which will be given to you, to prevent blood clots from forming. You will also be encouraged to take a small walk around the hospital the day after your surgery to prevent clots. Although you may not feel like it, and the nurse might seem like a bully - it really is for your own good!
Bowel Movements: You'll probably feel bloated and unable to have a bowel movement within the first day or two. This can be relieved by taking a gentle laxative.
Dressings: If you had an abdominal operation you will have a dressing placed over your wound. If you have a vaginal hysterectomy a gauze pack will be inserted into your vagina as a dressing and this stays in place for 24 hours. It may feel slightly uncomfortable, like you need to empty your bowels.
Stitches: Any stitches which need to be removed are usually taken out within 5 to 7 days. However many surgeons use dissolving stitches, which do not need removing.
Recovery At Home
Vaginal Bleeding: You may experience a small amount of vaginal bleeding after surgery, this is quite common and it can continue for up to 6 weeks. Make sure you have some sanitary pads to hand, never use tampons. If the blood becomes heavier than a normal menstrual bleed or if you develop a heavy, bad smelling vaginal discharge, call your doctor. You may have an infection.
Activity Level: Limit the amount of activity you do, including housework for the first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Never do any lifting or heavy work for the first 8 weeks.
Work: Statistically the average woman takes 6 weeks off work after a hysterectomy.
Sexual Intercourse: Wait 6 weeks before recommencing sexual intercourse - and one week after bleeding has stopped. So if you are still bleeding slightly by week 6, wait until bleeding has completely stopped for one week.
Exercise: Gentle exercise like walking is recommended, starting from your first day at home. Build it up from 5 minutes a day to 30 minutes a day. Ideally a hospital physiotherapist will have given you a plan before you left.
Driving: It is not recommended to drive until you are feeling completely comfortable with no soreness. This may mean any time between 4 and 6 weeks. Do not plan any long car trips for the first 6 weeks - even as a passenger.
Pelvic Floor Exercises: These are recommended within 2 weeks of surgery to help strengthen the pelvic muscles. To find out more see our articles:
All about Kegeling: What are pelvic floor exercises?
Exercise plan and tips: How do you do pelvic floor exercises?
How frequently to exercise:How many pelvic floor exercises should you do a day?
Other Points To Consider
Contraception: You no longer need to use birth control methods to prevent pregnancy, however you are still vulnerable to catching sexually transmitted infections (STI's) if you don't use condoms.
Pap Smears: If your cervix was removed, you no longer require an annual Pap test. However you should still have a regular pelvic examination and mammogram. If your cervix was not removed, or it was removed because of cancer, you will still need a regular Pap.
Hot Flushes: Many women develop hot flushes after their operation, probably because their hormones are upset and off balance. It doesn't seem to matter if the ovaries have been removed or not. However if the ovaries have been removed, you may develop other menopause symptoms as well, like mood swings, vaginal dryness and night sweats. You should talk to your doctor about possible hysterectomy side effects and what precautions you can take. He may recommend estrogen replacement therapy.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Before going into surgery, it is worth asking your doctor some of the following questions:
1. How long will I need to stay in hospital?
2. What activities should I do or not do after surgery?
3. How long will I need to take off work?
4. Am I likely to get urinary tract infections, if so, what treatment will I need?
5. Am I likely to have changes in bowel habits, what treatment will it need and how long will it last?
6. How often will I need a pelvic exam and Pap test in the future?
7. When will I need a follow-up appointment?
8. Can I expect any changes in my libido?
9. Can you recommend any local hysterectomy support groups?
I had an abdominal hysterectomy; it took 8 weeks for it to heal properly. However, I had no feeling 'down there' for about 6 months and I thought that was the end of my sex life. Fortunately it's come back since. However, I still feel a pull on my scar when I sneeze and the operation was 4 years ago.
I had a salpingo oophorectomy hysterectomy a few months ago and was back to work a week later. I was supposed to take 6 weeks off but my recovery went so well, I risked going back to work earlier. I have a desk job, so it wasn't anything strenuous.
It took me about 6 weeks to full recovery from my operation. I was supposed to take a month off work but went back after 2 weeks part-time because I was feeling so much better. But I think you still have to be very careful because it takes time to heal on the inside. It’s not just about how the scar looks on the outside.
I had tried some of the alternatives to hysterectomy, but my symptoms just didn't improve. So I had the surgery when I was 29 years old. The pain when I woke up was really bad, I really worshipped that demerol pump and was sorry to lose it! :) The second day was better and by the fourth day the pain was almost gone. I didn't drive for 4 weeks or go back to work for 6 weeks. However, I can understand why people are tempted to go back earlier. You can feel good after 2 weeks - but like the other lady said, it takes longer to heal on the inside. One night, about 10 days after coming out of hospital I bent down to pick up the dog and fainted. I woke up a few minutes later and called the doctor. He said this is quite normal, and is the reason why they advice patients not to drive for 6 weeks. You can pass out just like that, with a bit of exertion. I'd also recommend keeping plenty of panty liners around, I had a discharge for about 4 weeks.
One week after my operation I thought I was doing awesome, no symptoms of menopause yet. Then, bang, I got my first hot flash. It wasn't bad, felt like someone had thrown a heated blanket on my head for 5 minutes. Then I got one the next day, then that evening. They starting coming more often and increased in intensity. The doctor wasn't much help, said there were pros and cons to ERT. I'm thinking about starting the estradiol patch because it means the drugs don't pass through the liver.
I had the da Vinci surgery a few weeks ago. I was nauseous from the anesthesia when I woke up so they gave me some drugs to stop that. I had problems passing a bowel movement so they gave me the Gatorade/Miralax mix. The initial pain felt like horrible menstrual cramps, and then it got worse and became sharper. I had to wait to be given pain relief drugs, they didn't have that automatic device which was a real shame!