Ready to Head Back to Activities?
Although you have reached the scheduled six-week recovery point, you won't feel 100%. If your belly is still achy at the end of the day, you aren't alone.
As you head back into your normal schedule, find ways to rest and save your strength for the important things.
Many HysterSisters start back to work on a part-time basis, increasing their hours as they feel better. It's not unusual to come home from work and fall into bed earlier than normal. Resting is still of great importance!
If you have a desk job, try to find ways to change positions in the chair during your day. Be sure and walk when you can, eat sensibly, and as you sit, elevate your feet if you can manage it. We've heard from many working HysterSisters who find unique ways to get comfy at work, including using a filing cabinet or waste paper basket as an ottoman.
Lower back pain can be a bother as you increase your activity. A small pillow for the small of your back can be helpful. Adjusting your position as you work throughout the day will help, as will gentle toning exercises (see tab for "A Fit You").
It's not unusual to feel fatigued for several months following your hysterectomy. Many believe that your 100% recovery is attained between the 6-month milestone and 1-year anniversary (your "hysterversary").
Jump back into your life--but jump carefully!
It's normal to feel twinges and some aches at the end of a busy day during weeks 5 and 6. It can also be normal to have some swelly belly from too much exertion and exercise.
At this point in your recovery, you shouldn't need prescribed pain medications, they should now be replaced with over the counter pain relievers. If you feel your pain requires prescribed medications, call your doctor's office or plan on discussing your pain level with your doctor during your 6 week post-op checkup.
Less of a Woman? Think Again!
After a hysterectomy, many women feel a sense of loss–-no matter what their age, no matter if they have a child or not, no matter if they thought they never wanted to have children. They feel a loss of possibility, a loss of choice.
Feelings range from a sense of emptiness or confusion to numbness and heartbreak at the thought of never holding their own newborn or sharing a child with their husband.
And many feel less of a woman because of this loss.
These emotions can be very strong and if you feel them, it is important for you to know and accept that they are normal and reasonable--especially right after your surgery. You need to allow yourself to grieve this loss; only by doing so will you allow the healing process to start.
Know that our body parts do not define us as real women. We are female in our brains and hearts much more than in our bellies. We are compassionate, loving, and willing to give of ourselves more than any of God’s creation. All women become infertile eventually. HysterSisters become so because they need surgery in order to be healthier.
You are still a woman if you've had a hysterectomy. Don't let anyone make you feel any differently.
If your feelings of grief and sadness do not lighten with time, please seek a counselor or talk to your doctor or your clergy person. To read more about coping with the pain of childlessness, look in our
Resources Directory and to share your feelings, feel welcome in our
Aching Hearts Forum.
Post-Op Video Weeks 5-6
Weeks 5-6 of hysterectomy recovery. This video produced by HysterSisters.com provides you with answers to your questions and help for your surgery.
Getting Ready for your Post-Op Appointment
On average, your post-hysterectomy check up will be at the six-week mark -- but this may vary by a couple of weeks one way or the other. You don't need to worry if your doctor doesn't want to see you until week 8 -- but if you feel you are having problems, don't hesitate to call!
During your post-op checkup at your surgeon's office, you will most likely have a pelvic exam. As uncomfortable as that sounds, it is the only way for the surgeon to check on the progress of your internal stitches and make sure you are healing properly.
If your vaginal cuff is not healing properly, your surgeon may apply a silver nitrate treatment to help speed the healing of your stitches and the development of new tissue.
If your surgeon finds you're healing as expected, you probably will be given the green light to resume your normal activities -- including sexual intercourse. HysterSisters would like to recommend that you ease back in to those activities as you feel ready.
During this appointment, make sure you ask all the questions you have written down. You may also want to write down the answers, as it it easy to forget what the doctor says when we are a bit nervous!
If your ovaries were removed, discuss your options for hormone therapy. Be aware of menopausal symptoms and be prepared to discuss your concerns even if you kept your ovaries.
Please note, HysterSisters has discovered that in many cases our surgeons are not the physicians who have the time to tweak and change our dosages for hormone therapy. Once released as a surgical patient, many HysterSisters find their family physician is well equipped to help with hormone therapy balancing.
Currently the American Medical Association does not recommend pap smears for women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix, although many physicians still perform a pap smear during the yearly checkup. Ask!
Questions for your Doctor
Use this list to help you gather your thoughts and prepare for your doctor's appointment. Remove the questions that do not concern you. Add to the list as you think of your own:
- 1. How do I handle my hot flashes and sweats?
- 2. Do I need blood tests for hormone levels, thyroid, iron?
- 3. Is HRT right for me?
- 4. How long will I be on HRT?
- 5. How long does it take to see results?
- 6. What are symptoms to watch for?
- 7. At what age do I wean off of HRT?
- 8. If I have kept my ovaries, what do I do if I have symptoms of menopause?
- 9. How do you know if I am healed or not?
- 10. How many stitches do I have left?
- 11. How long will I be sore and swollen?
- 12. When can I resume sexual relations?
- 13. If I resume sex, will I hurt? What if I bleed?
- 14. Can I douche?
- 15. What if my libido is lacking?
- 16. What if sex is not like before?
- 17. Can I go swimming and get in hot tub?
- 18. Can I start an exercise program?
- 19. Am I cleared for all activities?
- 20. What are my lifting restrictions, if any?
- 21. What about my emotions and feelings after this surgery? What is normal? What is not?
- 22. What if I cannot sleep?
- 23. Do you recommend vitamins, calcium and how much?
- 24. Do I need a pap now that my cervix is gone?
- 25. Do I schedule a yearly checkup from now on?
- 26. May I have a copy of my pathology/surgery report?
Planning for a Healthier YOU
If ever there was a good time to start a new lifestyle of health and fitness, this is it.
If you have thought about losing weight, working out, or quitting those cigarettes, now is a great time to do so.
Your body has been through major surgery. As you recover, take charge of your health and plan for a better tomorrow. Aerobics and weight bearing exercises are recommended for our aging bodies. Eating right and with smaller portions is high on our proirity list along with drinking plenty of water.
Make a start and stick with it. Need online support? HysterSisters' support forum for fitness and better health: Hysteritaville is waiting for you!
After getting approval from your surgeon gradually, ease back into or start an exercise program.
The following exercises will help strengthen your stomach muscles. Always listen to your body and take it slowly and gently. Only do these if you are comfortable. Stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.
1. Pelvic Tilting
Lie on your back with one pillow under your head, with your knees together and bent. Take a breath in and as you breathe out, pull in your tummy muscles, tilt your bottom upwards slightly and try to press the middle of your back against the mattress or floor. Hold for a few seconds and then let go. This exercise helps backache and reduces abdominal wind.
2. Pelvic Floor Exercises
These can be started after a urethral catheter has been removed, or from the second day after your operation. Lie comfortably with both legs bent and slightly apart. Do not tighten your tummy or hold your breath. Pull up and close the back passage, hold, then pull up and close the front passages (as if you were preventing a bowel and bladder action). Hold this and count for 5 seconds, feeling a definite lift in the pelvic floor. Let go slowly, but never push down.
Start your exercises gradually and increase the number or repetitions each day. Aim for 5 - 10 times at regular intervals throughout the day. This exercise can be done in lying, sitting or standing positions. It is important to ensure that you will regain full control of urine flow, especially important after a hysterectomy, either abdominal or vaginal. You should continue doing it for the rest of your life.
3. Trunk Rotation
Lie flat with one pillow under your head, both knees bent up fully together.
Tighten your tummy muscles and HOLD TIGHT. Now swing both knees to the left slowly then over to the right slowly and then slowly return to the center position. Stop and relax the tummy and pelvis.
Repeat 5 times, twice daily, increase by 1 repetition daily to 10 repetitions, twice daily.
4. Straight Abdominal Exercise
Lie flat with one pillow, tighten your tummy muscles and HOLD TIGHT. Arms out towards your knees or crossed across your chest (whichever is more comfortable), and raise your head, neck and shoulders to look at knees. Hold and lower slowly, relaxing the tummy once your head is on the pillow. Repeat 5 times, 2 times daily; increasing as in Exercise 3
5. Hip Hitching
Lie flat with your head on the pillow, one leg straight and the other one bent. Tighten your tummy and feel your back touching the mattress and HOLD.
Now pull straight leg up at the hip towards the shoulder, hold for 5 seconds and then relax. Change position of legs and repeat. Repeat 5 times , 2 times daily; increasing as in Exercise 3
All exercises should be done comfortably! If you feel any ache or pain, stop.
Continue these five exercises for three months, doing each 10 times, twice daily. Pelvic floor exercises, however, should be done at regular intervals throughout the day.
Post-Op HysterSisters Resources
Our Post-Op Discussions
Our Post-Op Resource Links
Our Post-Op Articles
Help for Husbands
Comfort: If you are heading back to work, wear comfortable shoes and clothing. This is not the time to wedge those high heels on your feet or try to fit into those "too-tiny" slacks.
Support: Panty girdles make a great tummy support, helping to protect your tender belly. (Find several styles in the HysterSisters Store)
Go Easy: Don't pick up your Super Woman Cape at the cleaners just yet! You should ease back into your routine carefully. You can attain Super Woman status once again but there is no need to rush things.
Our Best Kept Secret - Kegel Exercises
Having a hysterectomy can weaken pelvic muscles. There are great benefits in working to strengthen them.
Women with bladder control problems may find reduced leakage with the strengthening of pelvic muscles. HysterSisters also report heightened sexual enjoyment with the toning of these muscles.
Check with your doctor or nurse to teach you the correct technique. You can also check yourself by placing a finger in your vagina and squeezing around it (After your doctor releases you at your surgical post-op appointment. Until then, nothing in the vagina.). When you feel pressure around your finger, you are using the correct muscles.
Try to keep everything relaxed except the muscles right around the vagina. At the same time, do not bear down or squeeze your thigh, back or abdominal muscles. Breathe slowly and deeply. At first you can do the exercises with your knees together (lying or sitting).
We recommend doing the exercises for five minutes twice a day. You should squeeze the muscles for a count of four and relax for a count of four. With practice it will become easier as the muscles get stronger.
The great thing about Kegel exercises is that they are easy to do anywhere. Many women create a routine of doing Kegel exercises for 5 minutes before they get up in the morning and for 5 minutes before going to sleep.
GreenLight For Intimacy
When your surgeon releases you to resume activities including sexual intercourse, HysterSisters suggests proceeding with gentleness.
Check with your surgeon first, but if you find you are experiencing vaginal dryness, Very Private Moisturize (found at the HysterSisters store) can be of help. It's a favorite product of the HysterSisters members!
Some HysterSisters report a bit of pain during the first encounter. Others report no pain. Some HysterSisters report a bit of bleeding or light pink discharge with some cramping.
If pain, bleeding or cramping persists after a couple of hours, call your doctor's office.
Many HysterSisters report a renewed enjoyment in their sexual relationship. Take things easy!
GreenLight But Missing Libido?
Many HysterSisters report that during their first 6 weeks of recovery from their hysterectomy they experience heightened libido and are thrilled with the prospects.
Other HysterSisters report an initial surge and then a decline in libido.
Be sure and discuss your concerns with your doctor during your post-op appointment.
Questions to ask your physcian will depend on your personal relationships and physical condition. Ask questions such as: Do you treat patients for lack of libido? Are you familiar with any products that might be of help to me?
It does take some HysterSisters a few months before their hormones level out and their physical condition feels healthy enough to enjoy a normal libido once again. But we suggest keeping a journal and taking note of your concern.
If in a couple of months you are still concerned about your missing libido, talk frankly with your doctor and ask for help. If your doctor doesn't handle prescribed libido products, we suggest searching for a doctor that will work with you regarding this and other hormone issues.
Before the post-op checkup, you need to decide if this doctor will be the one to prescribe your hormone replacement. If you have a good working relationship with your doctor and feel s/he is knowledgeable about prescribing HRT and will work to help you find hormone balance, consider yourself lucky! Many women find the surgeon isn’t the best doctor to prescribe HRT. It doesn’t matter who writes the prescriptions.
You need hormones to replace what your ovaries made. Chances are that if the symptoms you have as a post-op woman are new, then hormones are the answer--not sleeping pills or antidepressants/anxiety meds. Know the symptoms of menopause and find a doctor to work with you to relieve them with hormone replacement. Hormone testing isn't really necessary and can often be misleading. Treat the symptoms and don't worry about the numbers.
If you have kept your ovaries and have symptoms of menopause, it could be that your ovaries have not fully recovered from surgery. Your doctor can do a FSH test to check the level of ovary function. It is sometimes necessary to take hormone replacement even if you've kept your ovaries.
Hot Flash Help
HRT needs may change as the hormones your ovaries made are depleted. Ask your doctor about taking supplements.
Keep a symptom journal. Include symptoms as well as any OTC and prescription medications and all supplements you are taking.
Don't make frequent changes in your HRT. Allow each change time to work.
It's better to start your hormone balancing with estrogen only. Add other hormones later if symptoms warrant them.
Your initial recovery period is almost over and you may feel great. On the other hand, you may be wishing you had more time to recover.
Realize that you've been given this time to heal from your surgery and find refreshment for your future with the hope of a healthier tomorrow.
Take time, even as you head back to your life, to remember to nuture the good stuff. Take time to smell delicious lotions and listen to beautiful symphonies.
Without the glorious moments of refreshment, life wouldn't be so rich!
You are precious and valuable to your family and friends. Life is short. Enjoy it!
Ways to Nuture Your Soul
- One of the most important things to learn is that it's not all so bad.
- Take advantage of some wonderful quiet moments to just sit and do nothing at all.
- Also take some wonderful moments in quiet time with God.
- Notice how amazing the human body is and what it is capable of doing.
- Start a daily gratitude journal. It can truly be soul-saving .
- This surgery was never going to make you suddenly 20 pounds lighter and 20 years younger. It may, however, make you feel better about yourself than if those things had actually happened.
- A major life-changing event, like this surgery, brings with it a number of lessons--some small and some large. Keep track of what you learn so you don't miss the learning!
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