Please help me cope with a forthcoming hysterectomy.
November 2, 2005 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm shortly scheduled to have a hysterectomy. It's not going to be abdominal, so I don't have to worry about taking care of sutures, but I want to know how I should prepare: what physical comforts I should have on hand, dietary staples, recovery strategies, and resources and guides I should consult prior to this.

I'll have my husband helping me while I recover, and I don't want him to get overwhelmed, so if there's any resources that might help him that would be good too.

Also, I am young, with no children, and even though I never thought I wanted to have them I find myself having nightmares and overwhelming sadness and grief. I don't know how to comfort myself. Any thoughts or suggestions would be deeply appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can recommend as a great source of information and support. Especially with the how-long-will-it-be before-X type of recovery questions. I wish you the best. Listen to what the doctors tell you and let yourself be waited on. Don't try and do too much too soon. It will seem like FOREVER before you feel on your way to normal, but you get there.
posted by krix at 10:16 PM on November 2, 2005

When my mother had her hysterectomy, the main thing was for her to avoid lifting anything heavy for some time (there was a certain poundage mentioned, but basically, the weight of an average bag of groceries), and to keep rested and hydrated.

I was living near her at the time, and came by daily in the first couple of weeks to run a vacuum, do some laundry, throw together some dinner--anything to help her stay off her feet and keep her from feeling tense about the things that weren't getting done.

I also put together a little tote bag of things that one uses frequently without really thinking about it, so that she wouldn't have to get up and rummage for them while she was resting--nail files, lip balm, something to read, kleenex, a clock, etc. You might also want to include your cell phone, bottled water, a Luna bar or some other type of snack--whatever you think you might like to have handy if you really didn't feel up to wandering out to the kitchen or up or down stairs. When you do move from room to room, you can carry your little bag with you, and have most of what you need. You can also seed the house with some of this stuff--tissues and water and such in every comfy spot.

I had my own children biologically, but I know many women who, for whatever reason, adopted children, and those children are no less loved than mine are. If this surgery makes you realize that motherhood is something you want, please know that it is still a possibility for you. I believe this is a normal reaction--I was in my twenties when my mother had her surgery, and she still felt a sense of loss. I am sure that there are support groups for you, if you need them.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery on every level.
posted by padraigin at 10:17 PM on November 2, 2005

I wish I had something to offer other than to second the HysterSisters site (I know a friend of a friend who got a lot of help there), anon, but I also just wanted to say I'm sorry you're going through this -- my heart truly goes out to you. I wish you a good recovery as well.
posted by scody at 10:28 PM on November 2, 2005

I imagine a ride home would be a fine idea.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:47 PM on November 2, 2005

Make a list of questions you have and take them to a pre-surgery visit at the doctor's office. When I had surgery for an ovarian cyst, I did so - my GYN was able to answer questions about anesthesia and intubation and all kinds of things. (I had major surgery and it was my first, so I was a nervous wreck.)

If you will still have your ovaries after the surgery, or can have some eggs frozen, you can get a surrogate later on. Just wanted to mention it in case you hadn't thought about it.

If your distress lasts a very long time, gets too intense, or begins to interfere with your life, get counseling or find a support group. Even an online support group can help. But mourning this is normal.

Treat yourself. Do something really really nice for yourself - or something you really enjoy - that you wouldn't usually do. Provided you're recovered enough to participate in whatever activity you choose!
posted by IndigoRain at 10:56 PM on November 2, 2005

Lactulose. I got mine for $4 with a doctor's prescription. I was recovering somewhat poorly from childbirth. However, it should also work for you, if you want to avoid constipation.
posted by acoutu at 11:04 PM on November 2, 2005

Is it a total hysterectomy including ovary removal, or just a removal of the uterus? If it includes the ovaries, ask about having an estrogen patch slapped on before you come out of surgery -- surgical menopause is a hell like none other. If you are keeping the ovaries, be prepared for the possibility of early menopause since uterus removal can result in decreased blood flow to the ovaries which can lead to ovarian failure. Have your hormone levels checked out if you haven't already so you have a baseline with which to compare it.

Take lots of vitamin C, let yourself rest a lot -- it is a fatiguing surgery, and takes a long time to recover. You will likely feel a weird/painful tugging on your bladder when you pee (kind of like your bladder is being ripped from your body), and I think that lasts a few weeks. It's been a couple years, and I forget how long the recovery actually takes. Also, I had an abdominal (vertical) incision, so I imagine my recovery time was likely longer than what you will face.

Be prepared for weepiness -- surgery is emotionally harrowing, especially something like this when you are young. Even if you didn't think you would have kids, having the option (of giving birth to them yourself, of course) taken away is still difficult to handle. All I can suggest is let yourself be hysterical or angry, and don't be afraid to ask for help from your doctor/husband/family/friends.

If your hormones take a plunge, you may have difficulty sleeping.

If I can think of anything else that I wish I had known before my hysterectomy, I will post again. Or email me any questions you have, address is in my profile.

Good luck, rest up, and be well.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 11:09 PM on November 2, 2005

I second acoutu's suggestion.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 11:10 PM on November 2, 2005

I was brought up knowing I couldn't have kids, so it was something I could get used to very gradually. Despite that, it still makes me sad. The stuff I find hard is when my friends talk about having kids or getting pregnant in an offhand way - like it's no big deal. Given that, it might be good to make sure - if you feel comfortable with it - that the people you spend time with know that you've had a hysterectomy, so they will be sensitive.

Finally, remember that adopting and fostering are becoming more and more prevalent, and are in fact the most altruistic way of bringing children into your family.
posted by pollystark at 2:37 AM on November 3, 2005

Lemon ice cups & popsicles were what I were most grateful to have around after my surgery. Mine wasn't a hysterectomy, but I'm guessing you might be intubated during anaesthesia for your surgery; getting tubed can leave your throat feeling raw for a couple of days.

And thirding the suggestion of something to forestall constipation (at the very least H2O/fiber; I've never tried lactulose). Painkillers WILL slow down your digestive plumbing; bathroom misery is tougher to deal with when you've just had an operation a couple days ago.

Good luck, and heal well!
posted by neda at 4:48 AM on November 3, 2005

They're not kidding when they tell you not to lift anything. After several weeks, when my mom was feeling recovered but before she was allowed to do heavy lifting, she helped bring groceries inside. She had to have follow up surgery as a result.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:19 AM on November 3, 2005

No one is kidding about the constipation. It WILL happen. I'd go right for the Colace to relieve constipation. I'm recovering from a abdominoplasty and a good friend is recovering from a hysterectomy. She tried everything else before finally listening to me and having some Colace picked up. Works wonders.

Lots of pillows. This is especially true for abdominals, but imagine will be good for you too.

I found myself craving salty things which made my swelling worse than it needed to be. Whatever snack-type foods you get I'd try for lower sodium options.

I had two weeks off work and was so bored I was a wreck. You'll get so tired of looking at your darling husband that you'll start thinking of ways to kill him in his sleep. Counter act that by arranging to have friends come over. Get out a calendar now and start making dates.

I highly recommend TV series on DVD as a way to fight boredom. I read about 6-8 books during my recovery, but the soothing came best while prone on the sofa with Buffy, Family Guy and Six Feet Under on the tube.

Finally, if there's something you've been meaning to learn, now is the time. Knitting, needlework, etc. Anything you can do while sitting/laying down is a great thing. It will take your mind of the pain and discomfort and who knows... you might get a jump on your holiday gifts.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:59 AM on November 3, 2005

YMMV, of course, by my friend had an abdominal hysterectomy last Thursday, and by the next Wednesday was driving, light grocery shopping, sitting on email for an hour at a time, etc. She's taken maybe 5 of the painkillers they gave her. I can't believe how quickly she's recovering, and I hope you do, too. Best of luck!
posted by tristeza at 8:26 AM on November 3, 2005

It's natural to be sad and scared any time a door closes for us, even if it's one we didn't think we wanted open.

Good luck with everything. You'll be ok!
posted by agregoli at 8:36 AM on November 3, 2005

One caution with hystersisters: there's a lot of fairly inaccurate information passed around on that site, and even the accurate stuff is without enough context to be sure it's applicable. The admin emphasizes that it's for support, not information, and chooses mods that reflect that. There have been some dramatic disasters enacted by women who followed advice they got there from ill-informed helpful posters.

For a little more solidly accurate discussion, even if lower on the hugs and prayers and flashing smilies quotient, try the Hysterectomy Toolbox and their associated yahoo list. If surgical meno is in your future (and even retained ovaries may experience natural meno within five years of a hyst), check out the Survivor's Guide to Surgical Menopause (yes, I know that's a geocities site, but that's their budget and the information is still sound) and their associated yahoo list. Both of these sites will give you the information you need to make your own decisions.
posted by salt at 9:23 AM on November 3, 2005

Remind yourself that while you cannot birth kids you can still have kids. Adoption is a great thing. I'm rather glad my girlfriend's parents adopted her, for example.
posted by phearlez at 9:58 AM on November 3, 2005

Here's a similar thread with lots of useful information (including my own experience).
posted by essexjan at 10:06 AM on November 3, 2005

My mum had a hysrectomy a few years ago - she was supposed to have it a lot earlier but she kept delaying it out of fear. The delay only made her even more irritable and sick whenever she had her period (she had fibroids). When she finally had the hysrectomy, it was more of a relief, because she didn't have to suffer that badly anymore.

About a month or so after the operation, she followed me to Vancouver for a trip for about a week. She had a great time.

I'm not sure why you're having the hysrectomy, and it's definitely not the most fun of experiences. But do take heart that everything does get better.

Healing vibes!
posted by divabat at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2005

You're going to be tired. After a couple-three weeks, you'll feel fine; you'll be going along normally, and then boom. Totally wiped out. So try not to be way from home by yourself when that happens.

A panty girdle can really make walking more comfortable. Bali makes a cotton one. Maybe they call it a support panty.

When you take your first walk in the hospital, wear a pad. I don't know why the nurses think this is optional.

Don't be afraid of the morphine. They have the drip set so you can't overdo it.
posted by wryly at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2005

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