So you've been told you need a hysterectomy?
HysterSisters recommends that you get more than one opinion when your doctor suggests a hysterectomy. You may have a trustful long-standing history with your doctor and feel horrified that we suggest such a thing! This isn't a slap in the face for your personal physician but a smart thing for every patient to do.
Set up an appointment with a different surgeon in a different practice and even perhaps in a different town. Take your records with you but also ask for an exam. Ask if the first recommendation is appropriate. Ask for alternative suggestions.
Get a third opinion. You might find the third suggests an even less invasive solution.
- Have I tried all the alternative treatments?
- Are my symptoms so unbearable as to make my life a misery?
- Will the operation relieve all my symptoms?
- Will there be any unexpected consequences?
- Am I prepared for an earlier menopause?
- Do I still want to have children?
- What will happen if I decide not to have a hysterectomy?
The key is for you, the patient, to get all the information you can before you agree to surgery. You cannot change your mind once the surgery is done. There are no money back guarantees if the surgery is not the cure for your problem. Be smart. Do your homework.
HysterSisters always suggests that a hysterectomy is your last resort after you have explored all other options and treatments.
If you have explored all other treatment options, HysterSisters standard is minimally invasive hysterectomy. Find a surgeon who practices minimally invasive surgery procedures. Now is the time to make the best of choices for your health. Be Well!
Keep Your Ovaries and/or Cervix?
It seems it wasn't too long ago that when a doctor recommended a hysterectomy, the removal of cervix and ovaries were assumed to be part of the surgery. Today you may have options and decisions to make about keeping your ovaries and cervix.
If your ovaries are healthy, you may be in better shape, now and 20 years from now, by keeping them. It isn't always easy for HRT to duplicate the hormones produced by the ovaries. This is not a decision to be taken lightly or for the convenience of avoiding future surgery. If you need your ovaries removed later, it's a much less serious procedure--and you will have had that extra amount of time with your original equipment.
Many women are finding that keeping the cervix may have added benefits if it's healthy and there haven't been abnormal Pap smears or disease. The cervix helps support the pelvic floor, is the source for some types of orgasm and may provide other benefits as well.
Talk frankly with your surgeon and discuss your concerns. HysterSisters suggests keeping healthy organs if possible! Take your time and explore all your options. Be informed and make your decision based on what is right for you with the help of your surgeon.
Ask Your Doctor These Questions
Take a notepad with you to each doctor appointment. Write down your questions. Write down your doctor's responses. You may need to refer to your notes later.
The HysterSisters, also, suggest taking a friend or spouse with you to your appointments to help you "hear" and remember what was said during your appointment. If you are confused or need clarification, ask again. Be sure and understand all your treatment options and choices before you schedule surgery. If you leave your appointment and think of more questions later, call your doctor's office and speak to the nurse. The key is to make sure you are comfortable with your decision to have surgery.
- 1. Minimally invasive surgery is the standard choice for hysterectomy among the HysterSisters. Most women are a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. If you are not, ask "why not?" (Find a surgeon who offers minimally invasive surgery options as their standard.)
- 2. How many surgeries like this for my diagnosis do you do each month?
- 3. What percent are minimally invasive surgeries? What percent are open incision?
- 4. Would you recommend a laparoscopic surgery for me? If no, "Why not?"
- 5. Will the doctor make a bladder tack? What is a bladder tack? (If you have incontinence, this is the time to bring it up as this is the best time for bladder and/or rectum repair)
- 6. How long will surgery take?
- 7. Exactly what will be removed? Uterus, ovaries, tubes, cervix, appendix? (How will these organs be removed? Through open abdominal incision? Through the vagina? With the help of a laparoscope?)
- 8. Will I need any preparation before surgery? (enema, stool softener, liquid diet, etc)
- 9. I take certain meds regularly (list your meds, including over-the-counter meds and supplements), will I be allowed to take these to the hospital with me?
- 10. What kind of anesthesia will I have?
- 11. How long will I be in the hospital?
- 12. How long will I be on bed rest?
- 13. Will a pathology report be done of all the organs removed? I do want one done.
- 14. How long for the results of the pathology report to come in? (If cancer is suspected, when will I begin cancer treatments and what options are there?)
- 15. If I'm taking BC pills or HRT, do I stop taking them prior to surgery? If so, how long before?
- 16. What medication will I be on for pain in the hospital and when I am home?
- 17. Will the doctor use a tummy binder on me? Will I need one?
- 18. If my ovaries are being removed, when will I start hormones (HRT)? Most important: will the doctor help me to adjust if needed or should I see my family doctor to help with this?
- 19. If I am keeping my ovaries, how will I know if they are working post-op? if they shut down temporarily and I experience hot flashes, how long will I endure menopause symptoms before the ovaries kick back in?
- 20. When will I be able to resume driving?
- 21. How long will I be off work?
- 22. Will I be able to lift my baby? If not, how much can I lift safely at 4 weeks, at 6 weeks?
- 23. When can I return to the gym? When can I return to horseback riding, biking, running?
- 24. I've heard that there is a problem with gas after surgery and have been told that over-the-counter medicines such as Gas-X can help. Is it OK if I take some along to the hospital with me?
- 25. What are the restrictions for any sort of sexual activity after surgery? Is external stimulation allowed and if so, how soon? When can intercourse be resumed?
Forget the classroom. We won't be testing you on these defintions but they are helpful to understanding the different types of hysterectomy because the option is yours. Your gynecologist may tell you that only an abdominal hysterectomy will do for you. Schedule another appointment with a surgeon with different skills and you may hear that the daVinci hysterectomy is a great alternative. Remember our motto: Gather all the facts and choose the surgery that is best for you with the help of a skilled surgeon.
Robotic (daVinci) Hysterectomy
LESS (Single Incision Surgery) Hysterectomy
Have you wondered how to prepare for your upcoming hysterectomy? Do you wonder what you can expect or how you should prepare? This video produced by HysterSisters.com provides you with answers to your questions and help for your surgery.
Your Pre-Op Appointment
During your pre-op appointment you will probably be given instructions on how to prepare for your surgery. It's important to keep those instructions handy and refer to them as the date gets nearer.
Every surgeon handles pre-surgery preparation differently. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. If these instructions do not include bowel-prep (enema and bowel clean-out) do not give yourself any treatment without specifically asking your surgeon.
Generally speaking, you should eat light meals during the 24 hours before surgery and you must stop eating and drinking within 12 hours of your scheduled surgery. Do not take any medication that you have not specifically informed your hospital and surgeon about. This includes supplements and herbs.
Nail polish removal is usually requested prior to surgery - fingers and toes.
Do not shave your pubic area unless you have been told to do so. Most doctors and hospitals have their own procedures and generally do NOT want patients shaving themselves.
If in doubt about the preparation instructions, call your hospital or doctor's office and ask them. Your surgery could be cancelled because you failed to follow instructions.
Packing for the Hospital
With the majority of HysterSisters members having minimally invasive surgery, often their stay in the hospital is one night and very little is required for your hospital stay.
You may want to bring only a small overnight bag:
- Your hospital insurance card and/or pre-registration paperwork
- Wear loose fitting clothes to the hospital. You will go home in the same clothes
- Comb or brush
- Lipbalm and hand lotion
- Leave your valuables at home
If you are having an open abdominal incision hysterectomy, you will probably stay a few extra days in the hospital and may want to pack with a few more items:
- Your own night shirt/sleepwear
- Oversize cotton panties
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Facial cleanser
- Lightweight cotton robe
- Lip balm
- Phone Calling Card or your cell phone (check hospital policy)
- Tummy Pillow!!
Prepare Your Recovery Space
If you are having a minimally invasive surgery, you will still need to prepare to have a space to rest for the first few weeks. Although the first day or two you will probably sleep many hours in the day, you will feel well enough to sit up and watch TV on the couch or in your bedroom.
For Open Abdominal Incision Hysterectomy
If you have an open abdominal incision, you will be spending a lot of time the first few days, maybe a week or two, in your bedroom or on the couch. These areas need to start off clean and organized. There is no need for a special hospital bed but you could be on the look-out for a rolling cart to put next to your bed for magazines, water, and a book or two.
A few days before surgery, get the room where you will be sleeping cleaned with fresh sheets on the bed. Clean off the nightstand to make room for items you will need: a lamp, the phone, the remote control, room enough for glass of water or juice. Extra pillows are a good idea.
If you are forced to be more independent because you won't have help getting in and out of bed, you might want to consider putting a kitchen chair by your bed and using it like a bed rail.
The main thing is convenience for you and making things as easy as possible. Plan ahead!
Worried About Germs?
As you prepare for your surgery, be sure and wash your hand multiple times a day, especially after you have exposed yourself to public handles. Use antibiotic soap and wash carefully to help protect yourself from colds and the flu.
You can, also, minimize the possibility of a hospital related infection. Hibiclens is an antiseptic scrub your surgeon uses before surgery. Useful for any surgical situation: robotic, laparoscopic and laparotomy incisions, this cleanser bonds to the protein in your skin to continue killing germs for 6-48 hours after bathing. It is especially useful in minimizing the chance of contracting Staph infections, including the antibiotic resitant "staph" infection we have all been hearing about. You can buy a small bottle in the HysterSisters Store: Pre Surgery Cleanser. It's a favorite of the HysterSisters members.
We invite you to explore the HysterSisters Site. Take a peek at the pre-op discussion forum. Post your questions by creating a "new thread". Reply on threads to participate in the discussions. Read through our article list for pre-op hysterectomy. Check out our video library. Take a deep breath. Settle in for great reading!
Our Pre-Op Page
Our Pre-Op Discussions
Our Pre-Op Resource Links
Our Pre-Op Articles
Help for Husbands
Special Hints from Hystersisters
You will need help during your first week post-op (especially your first few days home from the hospital) so make plans and arrange for it. Take time to discuss your needs with your family and make sure they understand you will be counting on them to pitch in. If your family isn't able to help, call in favors from your friends to bring meals over, to run errands and to check on you.
Most women complain during the early weeks of recovery that their abdomen feels tender and 'beat up'. Many women have found that adding a cold pack inside an abdominal binder is the perfect fix. Find it in the HysterSisters Store: Perfect Pocket Abdominal Binder.
We like to suggest a product called the "Easy Reacher". It's a nifty, long thing that allows you to grab the tv remote control, your slippers, anything you've dropped. The best hint is that the HysterSisters Store keeps them in stock along with other products gathered just for hysterectomy patients.
Preparing freezer dinners ahead of time may help ease your mind.
Collect all your pre-op paperwork in one place and put it into a folder or large envelope. Make sure you have contacted your insurance company and have any paperwork they require prior to your surgery date. As you are discharged from the hospital, you will have more paperwork to add. Having it all in one place may be of help to you as the hospital bills begin to arrive or you wonder about your post-op instructions.
Ask your friends for the names of their "golden oldies" movies and locate them for your post-op time at home. Favorites include: "Singing in the Rain", "The Farmer's Daughter" and "It Happened One Night."
Having new pajamas that are loose and comfy, not binding across the tummy, is a treat many HysterSisters suggest for your post-op recovery. Enjoy shopping for them now!
Products We Recommend
The HysterSisters Store has products selected and created just for you for your hysterectomy needs. Click here to visit the HysterSisters Store
Free Booklet: What 250,000 Women Know About Hysterectomy
Soft and Comfy Lounging Bras
Perfect Pocket Abdominal Binder
Make Ahead Recipe - Pizzawiches
Yields: 12 sandwiches
2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans undiluted tomato soup
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt or powder
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
12 hamburger buns, split
3-4 tbls of butter or margarine, melted
In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat, until meat is no longer pink, drain well. Stir in soup, oregano, and garlic salt/powder. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add cheese, stir.
Place about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture on each bun. Brush tops with butter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until cheese is melted.
OR wrap sandwiches in foil and freeze up to 3 months.
TO BAKE FROZEN SANDWICHES: Place foil wrapped buns on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until heated through.
Thinking about Menopause
During your pre-op visit with your doctor, be sure to discuss options and concerns about possible hormone therapy if your ovaries will be removed. Find out if your doctor works with patients to find the best HRT for their needs.
Thinking about Sexuality
Another important topic to discuss with your doctor is any concern you have about sex. Generally speaking, most surgeons will request that you refrain from intercourse until after your 6 week checkup to insure that you are not at risk for tearing internal stitches or getting an infection. Ask!
This is a great time to make life style changes and healthy choices to insure a better recovery. Eat healthy! If you aren't walking regularly or doing aerobic exercise, start now. Better health adds bonus points to your recovery.
Plan fitness during your recovery. The steps consist of walking and drinking plenty of water!
P.S. Be sure to check with your doctor about all medications and vitamins/supplements you are taking pre-op. You might need to stop taking them prior to surgery. Ask!
It's common to have fears about your upcoming surgery. This is a time to share your feelings and thoughts with those you love. If you don't keep a journal yet, maybe now is the time to begin. Writing out your biggest fears can be a comforting exercise.
We know many HysterSisters who write letters to each of their children, their parents, their husband and tuck them away.
Comfort may be found by reading your favorite scriptures. HysterSisters has a Prayer Request Forum for those who would be helped by sharing there as well.
Our Favorite Scriptures:
"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)
"The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." (Numbers 6: 24-26)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)