Going home after vulval surgery

When you go home from hospital you’ll need to rest for a few weeks at first. How long it takes you to recover will depend on the surgery you had.

After major surgery you shouldn’t lift heavy objects, drive or go back to work for around 6–8 weeks. But if you only had a small amount of skin removed you will recover much more quickly.

There are things you can do to help your recovery:

  • Wear loose fitting clothing
  • Avoiding walking too much until the skin has healed
  • Have frequent warm water baths
  • Dry the area using a hairdryer on a cool setting
  • Avoid wearing underwear
  • Ask your doctor for laxatives if you get constipated.

Having surgery to an intimate part of your body may affect your sex life. Once your wound heals it’s safe to have sex again. However, many women need longer to feel emotionally and physically ready for sex. It’s important to take your time and make sure you feel comfortable.

After vulval surgery

When you go home, you won’t be able to do a lot straight away. You’ll need to rest for a few weeks. How long it takes you to recover will depend on the extent of your surgery.

If you’ve had major surgery, it’s very important not to lift any heavy objects for at least 6–8 weeks. This will help the skin to heal completely.

It’s best to wait about eight weeks before going back to work, but you may need longer if you heal more slowly.

You can usually start driving after six weeks, but you should check with your specialist and car insurance provider first, as they may want you to wait longer before you drive again.

If your operation involved removing only a small amount of skin, your recovery will be much quicker. Your doctor will advise you on what to expect and the precautions you should take. Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Avoid wearing tight clothing and using any lotions, perfumes and talcum powders in the area where you had your operation.
  • Avoid doing a lot of walking until the skin has healed.
  • Frequent baths with warm water can soothe the wound and help healing, but avoid using scented bath oils and bubble bath. Some women find it easier to use a ‘sitz bath’ (a type of bath that fits over the toilet and allows you to soak just your buttocks and genital area). If you can’t get a sitz bath locally, you can buy one online.
  • If passing urine makes your wound sting, try pouring a small jug of warm or tepid water over the wound while you’re still sitting on the toilet.
  • A hairdryer on a cool setting can be a comfortable way of drying the vulval skin. You can also try gently patting your skin dry with a clean towel.
  • Wear loose-fitting skirts.
  • If you can avoid wearing underwear, this may help to keep you more comfortable. However, it won’t be possible to avoid wearing underwear if you have to keep pads in place.
  • If you become constipated, ask your doctor to prescribe you some laxatives.

Before you leave hospital, the staff can arrange for a district nurse to visit you at home. They can also organise other support services if you need them.

‘I found leaving my knickers off was most comfortable. I wore loose boxer shorts, as they didn’t touch the wounds. Give yourself time to recover.’ Sue

Sue


Sex

Coping with a cancer diagnosis and the effects of surgery to an intimate part of your body can understandably affect your sex life. It’s safe to start having sex again once your wound has completely healed, which usually takes about 6–8 weeks. However, many women need longer than this to feel physically or emotionally ready for sex. A few women may develop some tightening and scar tissue at the entrance to the vagina, which can make sex more difficult. If this happens, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor or nurse. They can give you advice and support.

You can read more about sex and sexuality after treatment.

Back to Surgery explained

What happens before the surgery?

Your surgeon will discuss your surgery and how you can prepare with you – this is a good time to ask any questions you have.

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.