There are different reasons you may undergo a hysterectomy, and you need to give yourself time to recover.
What does a hysterectomy involve, and how long until you can bounce back to normal? Let’s look at the hysterectomy recovery process with a timeline for your improvement.
Why a Hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus and likely also the cervix. The surgery may also involve removing surrounding organs and tissues, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries.1
Once you have a hysterectomy, you will no longer get your period, and you won’t be able to get pregnant. Women have a hysterectomy for various reasons, including abnormal bleeding, uterine prolapse, fibroids and cancer.1
Kinds of Hysterectomy
Depending on your condition and the reason for your hysterectomy, there are different types of surgery, which determines whether your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries need to be removed:1
1. Total hysterectomy: Your uterus and cervix are removed but your ovaries are not.
2. Supracervical hysterectomy: Just the upper part of your uterus is removed and your cervix is not.
3. Total hysterectomy: Your uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed. Removing your ovaries will start menopausal symptoms, if you haven’t yet experienced menopause.
The Hysterectomy Recovery Process: A Timeline
The recovery time after your hysterectomy depends on the type of surgery—as described in the options above—as well as how the surgery was done. With a vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy, you may be able to leave the hospital sooner and recover sooner than if you had an abdominal hysterectomy. Your recovery also depends on your age and your general level of health.2
It can take about six to eight weeks to fully recover after having an abdominal hysterectomy. Once again, recovery times are often shorter after a vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy. Whatever the case, you should rest as much as possible and not do any heavy lifting. Your abdominal muscles and the surrounding tissues need time to heal.2
If your ovaries were removed at the time of your hysterectomy, you may experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and difficulty sleeping.1 You will also experience some vaginal bleeding and discharge—less than during a period, but it may last up to six weeks.2
You may also experience temporary bladder and bowel problems. For instance, you might notice bloating and/or constipation, since your bowel will work more slowly as you recover. You may also have mild pain and discomfort in your lower abdomen.3
Besides physical side effects, you can expect to feel emotional after-effects as well. It’s common to feel grief and a sense of loss, with emotional impacts that can also include depression and anxiety.3 That’s because being a woman includes having reproductive organs that make it possible to become a mother. Losing that ability can be a big adjustment.4
The reasons for your surgery may also be part of your reaction. For instance, feelings of loss and sadness are particularly common in women with advanced cancer, who have no other treatment option.2
As for “getting back to normal,” your doctor will advise you when you can return to work—which may depend on your occupation—as well as when you can drive. Follow guidelines for proper exercises, such as walking, and what to avoid, like heavy lifting.2 You should avoid strenuous activities like housework and mowing the lawn for six weeks too.3
It’s generally recommended that you don’t have sex until your scars have healed and any vaginal discharge has stopped, which usually takes at least four to six weeks.2 You should also avoid inserting anything into your vagina for four to six weeks—like having vaginal sex, using a tampon or douching.3
Check with your healthcare provider if you have any questions.
See a Doctor
If you’ve had a hysterectomy, watch for side effects that should be outlined following your surgery. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health for follow up. In particular, see a doctor immediately if you experience heavy vaginal bleeding, start passing blood clots or have a strong-smelling discharge. It’s also important to reach out if you have feelings of depression that will not go away.2 Don’t suffer in silence.