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After your operation you will be encouraged to start moving about as soon as possible and you will usually receive help getting out of bed the next day. While you are in bed, it’s important to move your legs regularly and do deep breathing exercises to help prevent chest infections and blood clots. You will be shown how to do the exercises by a physiotherapist or specialist nurse. You will also be given some stockings to wear to help prevent blood clots in your legs.
A drip (intravenous infusion) will be used to give you fluids until you are able to eat and drink again, which is usually the next day. Many women are able to eat light meals after about 48 hours.
You may have a small tube, called a catheter, put into the bladder to drain your urine into a collecting bag. This will be removed after a day or two.
You may also have one or two drainage tubes to drain excess fluid from your wound. These are usually removed after a few days.
Unless you are having a smaller operation to remove just one ovary and fallopian tube, you will usually have a wound that extends up from your pubic hair line to just above your tummy button (umbilicus). The skin is closed with staples or stitches. These are usually removed after at least seven days; however some stitches dissolve and do not need to be removed. The wound is usually covered with a dressing for the first few days.
You will have some pain and discomfort after your operation which will be controlled with painkillers.
To start with you will probably need a strong painkiller such as morphine. This can be given to you either as injections (given by the nurses) or through a pump attached to a needle in your arm which you control yourself. This is called Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA), and you will be shown how to use this.
Some people may have a different method of pain relief called an epidural. A fine tube is inserted through your back into the area just outside the membranes around your spinal cord, called the epidural space. A local anaesthetic can be continuously given into this space to numb the nerves in the operation area and relieve the pain.
Most women are able to go home 4–10 days after their operation. Some women may need to have their stitches or staples removed after they’ve gone home. This can be done by a district nurse or a nurse at the GP practice. If you think you might have problems when you go home, for example, if you live alone or have several flights of stairs to climb, let the nurse or social worker know when you are admitted to the ward so that help can be arranged.
Your specialist nurse can arrange for you to see a social worker if you need help at home with chores such as cleaning, meals, personal care and financial advice. Many social workers are also trained counsellors.
Before you leave hospital you will be given an appointment to attend an outpatient clinic for your post-operative check-up. This is a good time to discuss any problems you may have. If you have any problems or worries before this time, you can phone your ward nurses or hospital doctor.
We have more information about having a hysterectomy|.
You will need to avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for at least three months. You will also be advised not to drive for about six weeks after your operation. You may find it uncomfortable to wear a seatbelt for some time. It’s best not to start driving until you are comfortable wearing a seatbelt as a passenger first. Some insurance companies have guidelines about this, and you can contact your own company or the DVLA (Drivers and Vehicles Licensing Association) for advice.
One of the common questions women ask after a hysterectomy is whether the operation will affect their sex life. To allow the wound to heal properly, most women are advised to wait at least six weeks after their operation before having sex.
Many women who’ve had a hysterectomy have no problem in having a sexual relationship after this time. However, others find that the surgery has shortened their vagina and slightly changed its angle. This can mean that they have different sensations and responses during sex. If this occurs, it can be upsetting and it can take time to come to terms with your feelings and any physical effects such as pain.
Your specialist nurse can help you if you are having problems after your surgery. For more information, you may find it helpful to read our section on sex after a hysterectomy|. You may also find it helpful to contact our Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, or another support organisation|.
One common fear is that cancer can be passed on to your partner during intercourse. This is not true and it’s perfectly safe for you to continue to have a sexual relationship.
In younger women who are still having periods, removing the ovaries will bring on an early menopause.
The physical effects of this may include:
Lubricants such as Replens®, KY Jelly®, Aquagel®, Sylk®, and Vielle® can be bought from most chemists and can ease any discomfort during intercourse. There is also an organic lubricant (Yes®) available. You can order this on the internet.
Some women may be prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) following treatment for ovarian cancer. This can help to reduce some of the problems caused by the menopause. You can discuss with your doctor whether taking HRT would be helpful.
Women often find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that they can no longer have children after a hysterectomy. They may also be worried that they have lost a part of their female identity. These are very natural, understandable emotions. It can help to discuss any fears or worries with a relative, friend or with the specialist nurse. Counselling can be arranged either by the hospital or your GP. There are also support organisations| that can help.
We have information about cancer and fertility|, which you may find useful.
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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