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Recovery From a Laparoscopic Hysterectomy Week By Week

Recovering from any kind of surgery takes time, with different experiences depending on the type of procedure.

Women undergoing a hysterectomy will learn that there are variations on the surgery, and as a result, the time to get back to normal can vary too.

Laparoscopic hysterectomy is one option, performed with the aid of a laparoscope, a thin, flexible tube containing a video camera. It involves making tiny incisions in the abdomen near the navel, so the recovery process is different from other types of surgery.1

Here’s what lies ahead in recovery from laparoscopic hysterectomy week by week.

What Can I Expect From a Hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes your uterus, and there are various reasons that women need it performed. Once a woman has had this surgery, she no longer has periods and can no longer become pregnant.2

Besides removing the uterus, often the cervix is also removed. Depending on the reason for the surgery, there may also be surrounding organs and tissues removed—such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries.2

Here are the reasons you may need a hysterectomy:2

  • Treatment for uterine fibroids
  • Abnormal or heavy vaginal bleeding that can’t be managed by other treatment methods.
  • Severe pain during your periods that doesn’t respond to other treatments.
  • Uterine prolapse, which is when your uterus drops into your vaginal canal due to weakened pelvic floor support muscles. Prolapse can lead to urinary incontinence or difficulty with bowel movements.
  • Cervical or uterine cancer, or to prevent cancer due to abnormalities.
  • Other conditions with the lining of your uterus, like hyperplasia, recurrent uterine polyps or adenomyosis.

Types of Hysterectomy

The condition you’re being treated for plays a role in the type of hysterectomy surgery you will have. Besides removing your uterus, there could be additional components to the surgery. Here are the types of hysterectomy:3

1. Total Hysterectomy: This is the most common procedure, in which your uterus and your cervix are removed, but not your ovaries.

2. Supracervical Hysterectomy: This surgery involves removing your uterus but leaving your cervix intact. This is often done to treat noncancerous conditions like fibroids or endometriosis.

3. Hysterectomy with Oophorectomy: This involves removing your uterus, one or both of your ovaries, and sometimes your fallopian tubes.

4. Radical Hysterectomy: In this procedure, the surgeon removes your uterus, cervix, the top portion of your vagina, most of the tissue that surrounds the cervix, and sometimes the pelvic lymph nodes. This can be an option for treating cancer.

Types of Hysterectomy Surgery

There are also different approaches to surgery to remove your uterus, depending on the size of the uterus and several other factors. 

Abdominal Hysterectomy Surgery: An incision about 6-8 inches long is made in the abdomen, through which the uterus is removed. This procedure is common when the ovaries and fallopian tubes are being removed, when the uterus is enlarged, for women with large fibroids, or when disease has spread to the pelvic cavity, as in endometriosis or cancer.3

Vaginal Hysterectomy Surgery: Used most often to treat prolapse, in this procedure, the uterus is removed through the vaginal opening, with no external incision and therefore no visible scarring. Of all hysterectomy procedures this involves the least postoperative pain.3

Laparoscopic Hysterectomy Surgery: This is a vaginal hysterectomy performed with the aid of a laparoscope, a thin, flexible tube containing a video camera. Tiny incisions are made in the abdomen, near the navel, through which the laparoscope is inserted. The uterus is then removed in sections through the laparoscope tube or through the vagina.1

A procedure done with laparoscopy—as opposed to a large abdominal incision—is less invasive and typically provides:1

  • faster recovery time
  • less pain
  • smaller incisions
  • early return to normal daily activities
  • shorter hospital stay

Here’s what to expect.

Recovery From Laparoscopic Hysterectomy Week By Week

Recovery from laparoscopic surgery typically takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks, although for some women they don’t fully recover for 6 weeks. Recovery time can depend on your age and general health, too. It’s important to obtain and follow instructions from your healthcare provider before you go home, so you know how to take care of yourself.2

Week 1

  • The length of time you spend in the hospital can vary. Some women are released the same day, while others stay anywhere from 1-3 days.4
  • You may feel some after effects of the anesthesia, typically lasting about 24 hours. You may feel more sleepy, and you should not drive or make important decisions during this time as your judgment may be impaired. 4 Ask your doctor, but you should be able to resume driving within a few days.2
  • You may have a catheter in your bladder to allow drainage of your urine, which is usually only inserted for up to 24 hours, or until you are easily able to walk to the bathroom.4
  • Your scars will be small, with about 2-4 on different parts of your abdomen. They may be closed by stitches or glue—which may dissolve—or the stitches may need to be removed about 5-7 days after your operation. A dressing will cover the scars which you should be able to take off about 24 hours after your operation, so you can wash or shower. Check with your healthcare provider for specific instructions on your stitches, washing and showering. If you have stitches in your vagina, they should be dissolvable.4
  • You may have a pack in your vagina to reduce the risk of bleeding. This length of gauze is similar to a large tampon, and will be removed after your operation while you are still in hospital.4
  • You might need pain medicine for a week or two. You may have shoulder pain due to the air the doctor put in your abdomen to help see your organs better. You may get tired easily or have less energy than usual, which can last for several weeks after surgery.5 
  • Avoid strenuous activities, but try to walk each day, slowly increasing the amount you walk. This can help boost blood flow, prevent clots and help prevent pneumonia and constipation.5 You may also be given exercises for recovery by a physiotherapist. It’s important to get enough rest while you recover, too.

Beyond Week 1

  • You can experience light vaginal bleeding for 1-6 weeks. If you don’t have a total hysterectomy, you may continue to have a light period for up to a year after the procedure. That’s because small amounts of the endometrial lining can remain in your cervix, causing light periods.2
  • If you have not yet experienced menopause, and your ovaries were removed with your uterus, you may experience menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.2

That’s because ovaries produce estrogen, and the removal of them will cause you to go into menopause immediately. If your ovaries were not removed,  you might experience some menopausal symptoms temporarily following surgery, due to the disturbance of the blood supply to the ovaries. That should lessen as you heal.6

  • You may feel bloated or gassy, as it can take several weeks for the puffiness and swelling in your belly to go down.2

After 4-6 Weeks

  • You should not lift heavy objects, such as anything over 10 pounds, for at least 4-6 weeks. That includes children!2
  • Don’t put anything into your vagina for 4-6 weeks—like a tampon—and do not douche. Don’t have sex for 6 weeks after surgery, or as directed by your healthcare provider.2
  • You should be able to resume an exercise routine in 4-6 weeks, depending on how you feel. You can usually go back to work in 3-6 weeks, depending on what kind of work you do. 
  • You should add pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, to your exercise routine. For instance, vaginal prolapse can occur after a hysterectomy—regardless of the reason for the surgery. 7 Strong pelvic floor muscles are important to pelvic health in general. There are even tools available to help train your pelvic floor muscles. The INNOVO Urinary Incontinence Kit is not just for those with incontinence. The shorts and controller will help you perform Kegel exercises properly, in short 30-minute sessions, strengthening your pelvic floor. Subscribe to the INNOVO newsletter to receive a $20 discount code for your purchase!
  • Some women experience emotional reactions to a hysterectomy. Some women feel a sense of loss due to the fact they can no longer have children. You may also feel emotions depending on your condition, and whether the problem has been treated. Any feelings of sadness that linger should be discussed with a healthcare provider.2

See a Doctor

If you’ve had a hysterectomy—even the less invasive laparoscopic surgery—allow yourself time to heal and recover. If you need advice, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. In particular, see a doctor immediately if you experience heavy vaginal bleeding, start passing blood clots or have a strong-smelling discharge. You should also talk to your doctor immediately if you have feelings of depression that will not go away. You can also reach out to other women who have had a hysterectomy, who can provide emotional support and reassurance.8

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