Recovering after a hysterectomy

After a hysterectomy, you may feel tired for several weeks. Try to get lots of rest and remember that it will take a while for your body to heal. Don’t do any demanding physical activity or heavy lifting for at least three months. But it’s important to take some gentle exercise, such as short walks which you can gradually increase.

Your doctor can speak to you about when you can start driving again and return to work. This will depend on your situation and how you are recovering.

Many women worry about how a hysterectomy will affect their sex life. Most women are told to wait at least six weeks before having sex. This is to allow time for the wound to heal. After this time, it’s safe and healthy to get back to your usual sex life.

Removing the ovaries will bring on an early menopause if you were still having your periods. This can be difficult for some women to deal with but there is lots of support available.

Going home after a hysterectomy

It's important to get plenty of rest when you go home after a hysterectomy. Try to balance this with taking some gentle exercise, such as short walks, which will give you more energy.

You may find you feel tired for several weeks or longer, so try to take things easy and have regular rest periods. Getting back to normal is a gradual process and can take some time.

It will also take a while for your abdominal (tummy) muscles and skin to heal. You will need to avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for at least three months. Some women also find it uncomfortable to drive for a few weeks after their operation, so it may be a good idea to wait a while before you start driving again. Your insurance company may have guidelines about this. You can also contact the DVLA (Drivers and Vehicles Licencing Association) for advice.

Looking after or supporting a family can be hard even when you are well. Women with young children or elderly relatives to care for won't be able to do all the things that they usually manage for several weeks after a hysterectomy. This can be difficult to adjust to and cope with. It's important to be realistic about what you can manage and to accept help from your partner, family and friends. You can also speak to a social worker about getting help for a while after your operation. We have more information on childcare for parents with cancer.

Exercise after a hysterectomy

It's usually safe to start gentle exercise as soon as you feel able to after your hysterectomy. Walking is good exercise. Begin with 10 minutes a day, gradually increasing it as you feel able. You can do gentle swimming once your wound has healed and any vaginal discharge has stopped. Avoid strenuous exercise for at least 12 weeks.

It also helps to get into the habit of doing regular pelvic floor exercises. These help to keep the bladder muscles strong and prevent stress incontinence. A physiotherapist or community continence adviser can give you more information about these exercises.

Working after a hysterectomy

The amount of time before you return to work will depend on the type of work you do, how much surgery you’ve had and how you are recovering. Depending on your individual circumstances, it may be anything from six weeks to three months after your operation.

You may need more time off if you’re having further treatment (chemotherapy and radiotherapy). Your doctor can give you advice on when to return to work.

Some women may want to work part-time at first. There may be certain things that your employer can do to make things easier for you. If you usually stand for long periods, you can ask to do work that allows you to sit more. If you sit for long periods, it’s important to get up and move around every now and then.

We have more information in our section on work and cancer.

Sex life after a hysterectomy

Your surgeon will usually advise you not to have sex for at least six weeks after your operation, to allow the wound to heal properly. After this time, you’ll be able to go back to your usual sex life. But it’s not unusual to need more time before you feel ready, especially if you’re having other treatment as well.

Sex after a hysterectomy is perfectly safe and healthy. Cancer cannot be passed on during intercourse.

After a hysterectomy, most women are able to have an orgasm, although the sensation may be different from before. Some women may worry that having sex after a hysterectomy may be uncomfortable. To begin with, gentle penetration in a position that you find comfortable is probably best. Using vaginal creams and lubricants can help.

You might find it helpful to talk to your partner, if you have one, about how you feel. It’s not uncommon to not feel like having sex after cancer treatment. You may feel very tired and have some mixed feelings to cope with. But usually any problems with sex improve as you gradually recover. If emotional problems continue, ask your doctor or specialist nurse for advice. They may be able to refer you to a counsellor.

We have more detailed information in our section on sexuality.

Early menopause after a hysterectomy

In younger women, removing the ovaries will bring on an early menopause. This can be difficult, particularly when you are already coping with cancer.

Some of the main physical effects of the menopause are:

  • hot flushes
  • vaginal dryness
  • lowered sex drive (libido)
  • mood changes.

Depending on the type of cancer you had, your doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This can prevent symptoms of menopause and protect your bones from the effects of menopause. Taking HRT under the age of 50 when you‘ve had an early menopause doesn’t increase your risk of breast cancer.

Your specialist nurse can give you advice on coping with the effects of menopause. There are lots of different vaginal creams and lubricants you can buy in chemists that can ease any discomfort during intercourse. We have more information on how menopausal symptoms can be managed.

An organisation called The Daisy Network supports women who have had an early menopause.

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.