There are many reasons an abdominal hysterectomy may become necessary, such as fibroids, ovarian, cervical or uterine cysts, endometriosis, cancer, excessively heavy periods, and more. Once you and your doctor have discussed the need for this major surgery and have set the date, there are things you can do to help make your recovery time as easy, pleasant and painless as possible.
Below are some post-surgery tips to prepare you for a worry-free and speedy recovery:
1. Keeping a Positive Mental Outlook—
- Accept that you will be unable to do much for 6 weeks: Unlike the shorter recovery time of an intra-vaginal hysterectomy, an abdominal hysterectomy requires an incision on the lower abdomen that takes a minimum of 6 weeks to heal. This means no lifting or reaching over your head, lots of bed rest (with limited gentle walking to stimulate blood flow and healing) and no sexual activity or driving until you get the all-clear from your doctor.
- Support is important: Realize that someone else will have to take over many aspects of your life, and let them help you. This can be a difficult pill for many busy women to swallow. Most wonder, “Who will take care of all the things I normally handle?” Unfortunately the answer to this question (i.e. “Not you.”) isn’t what most women want to hear.
- Give your inner control freak a vacation: There aren’t any shortcuts. You have to rest and heal. Period. You are going to have to watch as the people in your life do things the “wrong” way and bite your lip rather than correcting them, because you’re counting on those nice people to help you. The children will survive. Your clients at work will survive. And most importantly, you will survive, so close your eyes, take deep breaths, and let go. The more positive and relaxed you can keep your mind during your recovery time, the faster you will heal.
2. Healthy Habits—
- Drink lots of juice: It’s always important to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, right? But when your body is trying to recover from the trauma of a major surgery, it is more important than ever to give it the fuel it needs to heal. If you don’t own a juicer, pre-hysterectomy might be a good time to get one. Fresh fruit and vegetable juice contains dense amounts of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to be a super-healer, and can speed up your recovery.
- Sip some smoothies: If you don’t own a juicer, a powerful blender can give you smoothies made from fresh fruits like apples, oranges, berries and bananas. When vegetables like kale, spinach and carrots are mixed in with fruitful smoothies, they often have very little effect on the sweet flavor, but can add a major boost of healing nutrition.
- Fruits and vegetables will heal you: Fresh fruits and vegetables, either in the form of salads, juices and smoothies, will hasten your recovery. These foods also contain natural fiber that will help naturally ease the constipation caused by some pain medications, which is enormously helpful when you have an incision across your lower abdomen during bowel movements. Be sure to drink plenty of water to combat constipation during your recovery as well.
3. Pain Control—
- Don’t be a hero: Hospitals don’t give out medals for bravery. It’s really important that you control your pain post-surgery, because keeping yourself pain-free will keep your mental outlook happier and this is unquestionably conducive to healing.
- Keep trying until you find the pain med for you: There is absolutely no reason in this day and age that anyone should have to be in pain, so if you don’t like a medication you’ve been given, try another. If that one has unpleasant side effects too, find another. There is a way to control your pain, and it is extremely important for your emotional health that you do so.
- Stay ahead of the pain: One of the most important things about controlling pain post-surgery is taking meds on schedule. This means that you shouldn’t wait until you are in already hurting to take the meds; take them before the pain happens.
Most importantly, don’t forget to give yourself a break. You’re having major abdominal surgery, after all. You certainly didn’t ask for this 6-week-long “vacation” from normal life, so put away the self-inflicted guilt and let yourself relax. Rally the troops—those wonderful, supportive family members and friends—and let them help you. This too shall pass, and you’ll be back to taking care of everybody and everything soon enough. Happy healing!