What happens after a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman’s womb (uterus). After a hysterectomy, you’ll be encouraged to start moving about as soon as you can. This is to try to prevent blood clots developing in your legs. You may be given support stockings and injections to also help prevent this. You’ll be shown leg movements and breathing exercises to help too.

You may have a few drips and tubes after the operation. This will give you fluids, drain extra fluid from your wound and help collect urine until you can move around. It’s normal to have some pain and discomfort for a few days. You will be given painkillers to help control this.

The wound is closed using clips, stitches or skin glue. The wound will look like a red line at first but it will fade and become white. If the wound is hot, painful, or begins to bleed or leak fluid, tell you doctor straight away.

It’s rare to have complications from a hysterectomy. But there are risks like any major surgery, such as bleeding, blood clots and infections. Your doctor and nurse will check for these. You’ll have check-up appointments after you go home. You can discuss any problems with your doctor at this appointment.

After your hysterectomy operation

You’ll be encouraged to start moving about as soon as possible. You’ll have been given support stockings to wear before your operation. These help prevent blood clots developing in the legs, and you may be asked to wear them for up to six weeks after you go home. While you're in hospital, you'll be given small injections under the skin (subcutaneous) to prevent blood clots.

If you have to stay in bed, it's important to keep up regular leg movements and deep breathing exercises. A physiotherapist or specialist nurse will show you how to do these.

Drips and drains

You’ll usually have a drip (intravenous infusion) to give you fluids until you’re able to eat and drink normally.

You may have a drainage tube in your wound or tummy (abdomen) to drain excess fluid into a small bottle. This is usually removed after a few days.

Normally, a small tube (catheter) is put into your bladder and urine is drained into a collection bag. It is usually taken out a few hours after your operation but sometimes it may need to stay in for longer.

Pain

It's quite normal to have some pain or discomfort for a few days, but this can be controlled effectively with painkillers. It's important to let your doctor know as soon as possible if the pain is not controlled, so that your painkillers can be changed.

You may be given painkillers through an epidural for the first day after surgery. This is a small, thin tube that is inserted in the space just outside the membranes surrounding your spinal cord in your back. This gives you continuous pain relief.

Some women may be given painkillers through a small pump attached to the arm or hand. This is called Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA). It allows you to release painkillers directly into the bloodstream by pressing a button. The machine is set so that you always get a safe dose and can't have too much.

Care of your wound

After a hysterectomy, the wound is closed using clips, stitches or sometimes, skin glue. Clips or stitches are usually removed after you go home by a practice nurse at your GP surgery. Some surgeons use dissolving stitches, which don't need to be removed. These will dissolve completely when the area is healed. Dissolving stitches are also used for a vaginal hysterectomy.

At first your scar will look like a red line, but this will gradually fade until it looks like a thin white line. It may also feel itchy and a bit lumpy. It's important to let your doctor know straight away if your wound becomes hot, painful or begins to bleed or leak any fluid.

Hygiene

It’s important to have a bath or shower every day while you are in hospital and when you go home.

It's common to have a vaginal discharge for up to six weeks after your hysterectomy. This is usually reddish brown in colour. If the discharge becomes bright red, heavy, or contains clots, or if the discharge is smelly, contact your doctor straight away. Use sanitary pads rather than tampons, which can increase the risk of an infection at this time.


Possible risks of surgery

Complications from a hysterectomy are rare. But, as with any major surgery, there are risks. These include: a reaction to the anaesthetic; bleeding; a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg; or an infection, such as a wound or urine infection. Rarely, women have bladder or bowel problems because of damage to the nerves during the operation.

After a radical hysterectomy, some women may have difficulty passing urine once their catheter has been removed. This is temporary. If it happens, a catheter is put into the bladder for 2-3 weeks until it recovers.

Lymphoedema

Women who have had the lymph nodes in their pelvis removed are at risk of developing swelling in one or both legs. This is called lymphoedema. It’s caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the tissues.

Your specialist nurse can tell you more about this and give you advice on how to reduce the risk of lymphoedema. If you notice swelling in either of your legs, get it checked by your nurse or doctor. The sooner lymphoedema is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.

We have more information in our section on lymphoedema.


Going home after surgery

If you think you may have problems when you go home - for example, if you live alone or have lots of stairs to climb - let the nurse or hospital social worker know when you’re admitted. Social workers are often available to give practical advice and many are also trained counsellors. If you would like to talk to a social worker, you can ask your nurse to arrange it for you.

Before you leave hospital you’ll be given an appointment to return to a clinic for a 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, hospital doctor, gynae-oncology nurse or GP.

Back to Hysterectomy

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman’s womb (uterus). It is used to treat cancers of the female reproductive system.

Your feelings

It’s natural to feel strong emotions before and after a hysterectomy. Every woman will feel differently.