My Total Abdominal Hysterectomy Surgery and Recovery
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Symptoms of uterine fibroids can vary among women but the most common symptoms are:
- unusual heavy bleeding between periods.
- severe anemia (having severe anemia from large amounts of blood loss can cause other symptoms such as: feeling weak/not having energy, heart palpitations, light-headedness; you may have a pale-pasty look about you).
- Clots (big and small) start coming out of that area any time of day or night.
- Spotting between periods.
- Gushes of blood loss between periods. You are minding your own business and all of a sudden a fountain comes through, and you never know when it's going to happen. You feel you must start wearing protection every day, and tampons don't cut it. You need the super pads.
If you have any of these symptoms, call your OB-GYN right away to get checked out. Also ask for referrals from your friends and family if they can recommend a really good OB-GYN. If you know of anyone that has had this surgery, ask them how it went and if they were comfortable with their doctor, and do they trust this doctor? If so, get a referral and make an appointment.
Before and after I was diagnosed and told I had to get this surgery, I felt overwhelmed and alone. So I used Google and found a very helpful hysterectomy website that I joined for community and resources called HysterSisters.
When You Receive the Diagnosis
My doctor informed me that the best alternative for me was to get a total abdominal hysterectomy, because my uterine fibroids had grown so large that there were no other less invasive alternatives except an incision made across the bikini line. After I finished hyperventilating from the news, I went home and did some research on my own and then made another appointment to ask my doctor plenty of questions. No one really can answer the question what causes uterine fibroids. If you are facing this type of surgery, check out HysterSisters website for a lot of valuable information and community support.
Listed below are a few suggestions to get your house in order and ready for you when you get back home from the surgery. Doing these few things in advance will make life much easier for you, because you certainly will not be able to do them while you are recovering. I was so grateful I completed these arrangements before day of surgery because I it made me more comfortable and had less worry.
Avoid Heavy Work While Recovering
Before your surgery, do your laundry, sheets, towels; clean bathrooms, vacuum and dust, sweep floors, take out trash, do a load in the dishwasher. Not to be preachy but don't try to do any of these chores while you are recovering.
Your doctor will most likely tell you, "No heavy lifting." This even means closing the door on the dishwasher. I tried to bend down just a little bit to close the door to the dishwasher and couldn't do it. I could feel strain on my lower stomach where the stitches were and decided to let someone else do it. This may sound extreme but during the first week or two, when you are healing from the stitches, you really don't want to put any pressure on your lower abdomen. Take it easy and rest. Milk this downtime for all you can.
Tips for Grocery Shopping and Cooking During Recovery
You can either order delivery or stock up your pantry and freezer with meals that just need to be heated up. You could make a nice chili or vegetable stew in the crockpot and then put in freezer bags to store in freezer, then all they need is reheating. Or cook some chicken ahead of time and put into the freezer. Then you could defrost only what chicken is needed and add to bagged salad greens with chopped carrots and tomatoes for a healthy salad. Hard-boil eggs in advance. Buy frozen vegetables. You want your meal preparation to be as easy as possible because you will not and should not be trying to lift heavy pans.
If there are restaurants in your area that will deliver to your door, this may be a very convenient option as well. Just go online to their website or call them to see if they deliver. Some may require a minimum amount ordered before they deliver. In that case order enough for the next day as well.
You also may have people bringing you food all the time, so if all your already-prepared food is in the freezer, it won't go to waste if you don't eat it right away. If you don't want to bother anyone with all your weekly grocery shopping, call around all your local grocery stores to see if they deliver groceries to your house for a nominal fee. Some grocery stores have on-line ordering and then deliver to your kitchen counter! Now that's convenience when you need it—remember you will not be able to drive or lift anything.
What the Hospital Might Not Tell You
Ask your doctor if you should expect severe constipation and severe gas and what over-the-counter products can you take to lessen the severity of these problems. It can be brutal a few days after surgery and the stomach gas starts up and you will get cramped up and can’t even sit down. I had to stay two nights in the hospital and they only fed me liquids. On the morning of checkout they fed me solid food but told me I could not leave the hospital until I had a solid bowel movement – they gave me a pill to make that happen. Better to start taking the anti-gas medication and constipation medication as soon as you get home to avoid the gas cramps, but check with your doctor first.
I was required to have someone drive me home after the surgery. The hospital would not let me drive myself (which was a good thing since I was drugged up on pain medication). They would not even let me take a taxicab. I made arrangements for a close friend to come pick me up when I was discharged. It is common that the doctor will order someone to stay with you for the next 48 hours. It is good to have this pre-arranged as well. If you can't find anyone to drive you home after surgery and/or stay with you those first 48 hours, call around your town for Home Care Specialists and find out what their hourly rates are (more details about this service is below).
Tips for Moving Around the House and Things to Do During Recovery
Get your chairs and sofa prepared with pillows for your back and bottom. That chair in your home office may have been comfortable before surgery, but for a few weeks after the surgery, not so much, and a pillow for the bottom and a pillow for back support will make sitting much more comfortable.
Go ahead and move your chairs in advance where you want them. Buy some good books to read, crossword puzzles, crocheting or knitting yarn. Buy some DVDs to watch. Write hubs for Hubpages. Go shopping on QVC to buy yourself a treat during this post-surgery recovery. Don’t eat too much chocolate and ice cream though – you can’t exercise for about 4 weeks, and even then you can’t exert yourself so you need to watch your calorie intake.
You could even move your TV in your bedroom if that works for you, and don’t forget the pillows. Lots of pillows to prop up your legs (behind the knees) to take pressure off your stomach area. Don't be surprises if when you are laying down, it will feel like a small puppy or kitten is laying on your stomach. When laying down to go to sleep, put pillows under your knees so they are slightly bent. This will help take pressure off the incision area.
Have lots of pillows for back support. Practice sitting down in chairs and the sofa without straining your stomach. My doctor recommended doing this - practice moving and sitting before the surgery. Practice getting up out of chairs and sofa using your hands and arms, without straining your stomach. Practice walking very s-l-o-w-l-y. You will not be able to move very fast after the surgery, due to a combination of your stomach all stapled up and the pain medication making you sleepy. Milk it for all it’s worth and don’t feel guilty if you can’t zip around like superwoman. Practice getting out of bed using techniques that avoid straining the incision area. You must use your arms and legs.
Asking for Help
When people offer to help do housework and shopping for groceries—milk it for all it’s worth. Don’t feel guilty. Let them help you—they want to help you. I know it can be difficult to ask people for help especially if you are independent, or you are always the one everyone else depends on. You don’t need to be lifting anything—not a vacuum cleaner, not a load of wash, do not bend over to load the dishwasher.
Do not lift heavy cooking pans. If you do these things and start to feel a pinch—stop immediately. You do not want to tear any stitches inside or out. Your scar area needs time to rest and heal after the metal staples are removed.
If you have children, have a talk with them a few weeks before the surgery and let them know how helpful it would be for them to chip in with all the housework while you are recovering, and it would reinforce their sense of responsibility. If they don’t know how to help around the house, now would be a great time to teach them.
Ask people in advance if they can drive you for your errands and any follow-up doctor appointments. You will most likely still be on major pain killers and they make you drowsy and you will not be cleared to drive until about 4 weeks or so. Because of the pain killers, go ahead and nap 3-4 hours a day and don’t feel guilty about it. You need your rest and healing time.
If everyone you know has to work and you don’t know of anyone to ask for help in doing errands, look up in your area Yellow Pages (or Google) if there are any at-home medical care services. These services specialize in helping people with medical issues in their own home, housecleaning, cooking, etc. Call them and explain your situation that you are having this surgery and need someone to help with cooking, housecleaning, and rides. It may be expensive if you use these services every day so ask if you could hire someone for just 1-2 hours a day instead of an 8-hour shift, which would save a lot of money.
Life Goes On
It usually takes about a year or so to start feeling normal after a total abdominal hysterectomy, due to scar tissue healing around the incision area. Most likely you will have to do a 1 week visit after the surgery to get the metal staples removed (believe it nor not -- this does not hurt at all to get the metal staples removed), and once again at 4 weeks and 6 weeks. Get a second opinion if it makes you feel better. Hopefully your current OBGYN will tell you to get a second opinion since this is a major, although very common, surgery.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Michelle Dee