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Hysterectomy: Your Experience

Hysterectomy is removal of the uterus. In most cases, this surgery takes about 1 hour to 3 hours. Knowing what to expect before and after surgery can help reduce any fears you may have. It also helps you prepare. Be sure to follow any instructions your doctor gives you.

Health care provider holding woman's arm, walking down hospital hallway.
Walking soon after surgery helps you recover faster.
Before Surgery

A few weeks before surgery, you may be asked to:

  • Stop smoking, if you smoke.

  • Donate your own blood. This is in case you need to receive blood (a transfusion) during surgery. Doing this is not very common. Most hysterectomies, especially if done for benign reasons, don't require patients to donate their own blood.   

As the day of surgery grows closer, you may be asked to:

  • Have blood, urine, and other tests.

  • Stop taking certain medications.

  • Sign a consent form for the surgery.

  • Stop eating and drinking after midnight the night before surgery

At the Hospital

  • Before the surgery begins, you’ll be given an intravenous (IV) line in your arm or hand. This line is used to provide fluids and medications.

  • Just before surgery, you will be given anesthesia. This is medication that keeps you from feeling pain. You will likely receive general anesthesia. This puts you into a state like deep sleep during the surgery.

  • During the surgery:

    • A tube may be put into your bladder. This drains urine.

    • A hysterectomy can be done in several ways. In some cases, an incision is made in your abdomen, and your uterus is removed through this incision. The uterus can also be removed through the vagina.

    • The incision is closed with sutures, staples, or surgical glue.

  • After the surgery, you’ll be brought to a recovery room. There, you will wake up from the anesthesia. Then you’ll be moved to a hospital room.

  • You may spend up to a few days in the hospital. Here is what you can expect during this time:

    • You will be given medication for pain. Tell your nurse if you feel pain.

    • The tube in your bladder will likely be taken out a day or 2 after surgery.

    • You will have some bleeding from your vagina. Use sanitary pads.

    • You may be given only liquids or light meals. This is to give your bowels time to return to normal.

    • You will be shown exercises to clear your lungs. Do these as often as you’re instructed.

    • You will be told when you’re ready to go home. Have an adult family member or friend drive you.

Recovery at Home

Follow all instructions you’re given for taking care of yourself at home. These tips can help you heal:

  • Take showers instead of baths.

  • Use pads to absorb bleeding or discharge. Light bleeding is likely at first. Brownish discharge may last up to 6 weeks.

  • Do not use tampons. Do not douche. These can cause infection.

  • Do not have sex for as long as your doctor suggests (most likely 6 weeks to 8 weeks).

  • Pain medications can cause constipation. Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Drink plenty of water. If you have problems moving your bowels, ask your doctor whether you should use a stool softener.

  • Tell your doctor if you feel down or have mood swings. You may be adjusting to the changes in your body. This is especially likely if your ovaries were removed and you hadn’t yet reached menopause. Medication can be prescribed to help.

  • Avoid movement that strains your incision, such as lifting.

  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again. Also ask when you can return to work and exercise.

  • It will likely take 3 weeks to 8 weeks to feel back to normal.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding

  • Smelly discharge from the vagina

  • Bleeding, discharge, or increasing redness or swelling at the incision site

  • Pain or swelling in your legs

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain

  • Severe abdominal or pelvic pain

Follow-up Care

Make and keep follow-up visits. These make sure you’re healing well. Your incision closures may be removed during a follow-up visit:

  • If your ovaries were removed and you’re having symptoms, tell your doctor. You might want to discuss hormone therapy.

  • If you had cancer, ask your doctor about any further treatment you may need.

Online Medical Reviewer: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 10/28/2013
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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