What happens before the operation?
You’ll probably be asked to come in the day before your operation, and you will be asked not to eat or drink anything for some hours before your operation is due. This is because general anaesthetic is unsafe otherwise. You’ll meet a number of medical and nursing staff, who will ask you questions and give you the chance to ask them anything you aren’t clear about. You may need to have your pubic hair shaved or clipped -you can do this yourself if you prefer. Your general health will be checked, and you will have a blood test, and a blood pressure check. You’ll also meet the anaesthetist who will be responsible for anaesthesia during the operation. An hour or two before your operation, you may be given a pre-med’. This is a drug you take by mouth, or in an injection, which relaxes and calms you. Not everyone needs one – your anaesthetist will discuss it with you.
How long does the operation take?
On average, about an hour. It will take longer if you are also having a repair operation or if it is a laparoscopic hysterectomy.
What lies in the place of the uterus when it’s no longer there?
The uterus isn’t very big, and as all the abdominal organs lie quite closely together anyway, once it’s gone, the bowel tends to move over slightly and occupy the space. You don’t have any space inside you.
What can I expect straight after the operation?
You will have been given a strong pain-killer before you recover consciousness, plus something to prevent sickness. You will wake up feeling drowsy, and you shouldn’t be in any pain. As after any operation, you will have a drip in your arm at first, and maybe a catheter to remove urine from your bladder. These will probably be removed the next day. You may also have a drain from the wound, to take fluid away. Again, this is usually removed the next day. None of these procedures is painful.
When can I get up?
The next day. It’s important to get moving, to encourage the circulation of the blood. You can have a bath or a shower as soon as you want one, and go to the toilet. It’s normal to take a few days before your bowels start functioning properly. You may be given advice on gentle leg exercise, to prevent thrombosis, and you may be asked to wear special stockings.
What about eating and drinking?
You will probably find your appetite takes a day to return, but you can eat and drink normally as soon as you wish. Will I be in any pain after the operation? You may find you suffer from discomfort because of wind trapped in your abdomen – ask the nurse for medication, and any pain relief you need. Don’t worry about sneezing, coughing or laughing, either. you will not affect your scar.
When can I go home?
You can go home two-three days or so after a laparoscopic or vaginal hysterectomy; perhaps four to five days after an abdominal one. Try to have some help at home for at least the first week or perhaps arrange to stay with a friend for that time. You’ll feel the need to rest, and you should avoid doing any heavy housework for the first few weeks. Gentle exercise every day is important, and you should practise the exercises the physiotherapist may have shown you in hospital. When your vaginal discharge has ceased you can do swimming. You’ll be advised to avoid standing for long periods, and not to do any heavy lifting for at least three months.
How long will I have a discharge?
The discharge you’ll experience is rather like the end of a period, and lasts about three or four weeks. It may be red or brown and it may have threads from dissolving stitches. Don’t worry about it unless it becomes heavy or smelly, which might indicate an infection – in which case, see your doctor. Use sanitary towels rather than tampons, to reduce the risk of infection.
What will I feel like?
Feeling low and tearful after any operation is normal, and this may happen to you. But there’s no reason to expect any longer term feelings of depression. ln spite of newspaper beliefs that depression frequently follows hysterectomy and lasts for many months, the reality is that depression is less common when the heavy painful periods and other cyclical symptoms have been treated by hysterectomy.
When can I go back to work?
You shouldn’t return to work for at least six weeks. Talk to your doctor about this, as advice will differ according to the sort of fob you have, and the hours you work.
What about sex?
Having a hysterectomy should not harm your sex life. In some cases, women find they are more interested in sex than before, as they are no longer worried about becoming pregnant, and the problems that led up to the hysterectomy (such as heavy periods) are no longer there. Sex won’ t feel any different to you, or your partner. It’s usually all right to start having sex again after your six week check.