While you were in the hospital, you had surgery to remove part or all of your uterus. This is called a hysterectomy. The surgeon made a 5- to 7-inch (13- to 18-centimeter) incision (cut) in the lower part of your belly. The cut was made either up and down or across (a bikini cut), just above your pubic hair. You may have also had:
- Your fallopian tubes or ovaries removed
- More tissue removed if you have cancer, including part of your vagina
- Lymph nodes removed
Most people spend 2 to 5 days in the hospital after this surgery.
What to Expect at Home
It may take at least 4 to 6 weeks for you to feel better after your surgery. You may get tired easily during this time. You may not feel like eating much.
After your wound heals, you will have a 4- to 6-inch (10- to 15-centimeter) scar.
If you had good sexual function before the surgery, you should continue to have good sexual function afterward. If you had problems with severe bleeding before your hysterectomy, sexual function often improves after surgery. If sexual function decreases after your hysterectomy, talk with your health care provider about possible causes and treatments.
Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital after your surgery. DO NOT drive yourself home.
You should be able to do most of your regular activities in 4 to 8 weeks. Before then:
- DO NOT lift anything heavier than a gallon (4 liters) of milk. If you have children, DO NOT lift them.
- Short walks are ok. Light housework is ok. Slowly increase how much you do.
- Ask your provider when you can go up and down stairs. It will depend on the type of incision you had.
- Avoid all heavy activity until you have checked with your provider. This includes strenuous household chores, jogging, weightlifting, other exercise and activities that make you breathe hard or strain. DO NOT do sit-ups.
- DO NOT drive a car for 3 weeks, especially if you are taking narcotic pain medicine. It is ok to ride in a car.
DO NOT have sexual intercourse until you have had a checkup after surgery.
- Ask when you will be healed enough to resume normal sexual activity. This takes at least 12 weeks for most people.
- DO NOT put anything into your vagina for 6 weeks after your surgery. This includes douching and tampons.
To manage your pain:
- You will get a prescription for pain medicines to use at home.
- If you are taking pain pills 3 or 4 times a day, try taking them at the same times each day for 3 to 4 days. They may work better this way.
- Try getting up and moving around if you are having some pain in your belly.
- Press a pillow over your incision when you cough or sneeze to ease discomfort and protect your incision.
- In the first couple of days, an ice pack may help relieve some of your pain at the site of surgery.
Make sure your home is safe as you are recovering.
Change the dressing over your incision once a day, or sooner if it gets dirty or wet.
- Your provider will tell you when you do not need to keep your wound covered.
- Keep the wound area clean by washing it with mild soap and water.
You may remove your wound dressings (bandages) and take showers if sutures (stitches), staples, or glue were used to close your skin. DO NOT go swimming or soak in a bathtub or hot tub until your provider tells you it is ok.
If tape strips were used to close your incision, cover them with plastic wrap before showering for the first week. DO NOT try to wash off the tape strips. They should fall off in about a week. If they are still there after 10 days, you can remove them, unless your provider tells you not to.
Try eating smaller meals than normal and have healthy snacks in between. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink 8 cups (2 liters) of water a day to keep from getting constipated.
If your ovaries were removed, talk with your doctor about treatment for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if:
- You have a fever above 100.5°F (38°C).
- Your surgical wound is bleeding, red and warm to touch, or has thick, yellow, or green drainage.
- Your pain medicine is not helping your pain.
- It is hard to breathe.
- You have a cough that does not go away.
- You cannot drink or eat.
- You have nausea or vomiting.
- You are unable to pass gas or have a bowel movement.
- You have pain or burning when you urinate, or you are unable to urinate.
- You have a discharge from your vagina that has a bad odor.
- You have bleeding from your vagina that is heavier than light spotting.
- You have a heavy watery discharge from your vagina.
- You have swelling or redness in one of your legs.
Abdominal hysterectomy - discharge; Supracervical hysterectomy - discharge; Radical hysterectomy - discharge; Removal of the uterus - discharge
Cohen SL, Einarsson JI. Total and supracervical hysterectomy. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. Dec 2011;38(4): 651-661. PMID: 22134014 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22134014.
Jones, HW. Gynecologic surgery. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, et al. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 71.
Kives S, Lefebvre G, Wolfman W, et al. Supracervical hysterectomy. J Obstet Gynecol Can. Jan 2010;32(1):62-68. PMID: 20370984 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20370984.
Review Date 1/16/2015
Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.