A lovely recovery
August 12, 2019 5:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm having laparoscopic surgery next week to remove some ovarian cysts & my fallopian tubes (and to check for endometriosis). I'd like to hear from folks who've had this kind of surgery in the past, particularly around how to make the recovery as smooth and pleasant as possible.

I've had a general anaesthetic before (wisdom tooth surgery in 2015) and it was fine; I didn't feel sick at all afterwards, and the only weird side-effect was a couple of days of feeling concrete-headed.

I know they'll inflate me with gas and that I could get pain for a couple of days as the gas dissipates, and I think I can handle that. I will have another adult with me for the ride home and at home during the recovery period.

The surgeon (good manner, highly-rated) was fairly blasé about the recovery the last time I saw him - he said I should be able to drive 24-48hrs after surgery, go back to work after a week and get back to lifting weights after a week if I want to (maybe lighter ones than usual if the heavier ones are straining my abs). I had an MRI a few weeks ago that didn't show any deep/penetrating endo, which is good news, but my ovaries are stuck together behind my uterus and no one knows why at the moment (freeing them is another goal of the surgery).

The biggest thing I'm worried about is potentially having a urinary catheter inserted during the surgery. I have near-phobic levels of anxiety about being catheterised and have very, very strong feelings that nothing sharp or rigid should go up that particular hole, and I also have a lot of fear around peeing being painful after it comes out. I wrote on my intake form that this is a big concern for me and that they'd need to put it in and take it out again while I'm under as there's no way in hell I'm having either of those things done while I'm awake; I really hope this is something they can accommodate (stories where you had a catheter during surgery and it caused zero problems and you couldn't feel anything wrong down there after you woke up would be very welcome).

Is there anything I'll need in terms of support or devices at home? Is now the time to buy a wedge pillow (our couch is pillow-back style and not very supportive unless you layer a bunch of cushions up) or will I be fine without one? What kinds of things did you want to eat in the few days immediately after surgery (I'm an adventurous vegetarian and my go-to sickness food is instant ramen +/- soup)? Any other hacks, devices or tips for making the recovery from this kind of surgery as comfortable and restful as possible?

I identify as non-binary rather than as the gender traditionally associated with having ovaries, fallopian tubes, etc., so if commenters could use "people with ovaries"-type language rather than "women"-type language when speaking generally, that would be very much appreciated.
posted by terretu to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had an ovarian cyst removed a couple of years ago via laparoscopic surgery. My main takeaway was that you need to take it WAY easier the first few days than you think you should. I felt more pain than I was expecting, and tried walking down the block on day 2—which I suffered for later. So rest up and don’t be hard on your body!

If you’re taking opiate painkillers, get some Metamucil or stool softeners in advance and take those like clockwork—don’t mess around with potential constipation, because straining will hurt.

If they put a catheter in me, I don’t remember it, and that is also something that bothers me, so if I’d been conscious or it hurt afterwards, I would have remembered.

I’ll come back and say more if I think of it. Good luck!
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 6:16 AM on August 12 [4 favorites]

Do make sure you have comfortable clothes with a waist band that won't press against the incision until it fully heals. A person I know went right back to wearing jeans after endoscopic surgery and ended up with a rather nasty infection. Depending on your gender presentation, this can counter-intuitively mean opting for trousers with a high and loose waistband - the maternity section can prove surprisingly helpful and neutral.

I had open abdominal surgery, with a catheter that stayed in for 24 hours afterwards, and I was surprised how much I didn't care about it. A very strange feeling, but other things were more pressing, and removal was just a relief.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 6:19 AM on August 12

I had an ovary and tube removed last May; this experience was a better one that the laparoscopy I'd had 15 year earlier.

Unless you are in a great deal of pain, try to take ibuprofen rather than the opioid. I only had a dose or two of the opioid but didn't poop for 5 days. In my experience, the things the surgeons say are possible are only possible after you have pooped!

After my first surgery, I had a lot of the shoulder pain of the gas escaping. This last time, I tried to sit up as much as possible the first day and I had none of this pain. Maybe they did a better job sucking it out the second time?

No catheter was involved, to my knowledge.

A nurse should instruct you (before surgery, so you can remember it!) how to carefully turn and shift to get up from a prone position--this is a hard move for the first few days.

Don't plan on any activities or even walks for the first 4 or so days, would be my advice.

I learned a lot from AskMe threads on laparoscopies, so do a search here!

Good luck.
posted by Riverine at 6:52 AM on August 12

I had laparoscopic surgery to have my appendix removed. I was catheterized for surgery and the catheter was removed while I was still under anesthesia. Afterwards, I felt moderately achey when I peed, like poking a very slight bruise, for about a day. I was also intubated and had that removed while I was under and my throat hurt in the same way for a day or two.

I found recovery pretty easy and straightforward. I made a point to start getting up and taking short walks as soon as I could: walked from my bed to the door, then up and down the hallway, later in the day after my surgery. I found it uncomfortable to be jostled in the first few days after surgery, so the drive home was uncomfortalbe, but I felt healed from a pain and needing to be gentle perspective after a couple of weeks.

The thing that surprised me most was that I was fatigued and tired easily for a lot longer than I expected post-op. Even a month later, I was still taking the occasional nap. Surgery is super hard on the body -- general anesthesia takes a toll, and surgery itself is, of course, nothing more than a controlled stab wound (or several!), and healing takes a lot out of a body.

I went back to work the Tuesday after a Wednesday surgery. I worked 2 hours the first day, 4 the second, 5 the third, 6 the 4th, and then had a weekend. The following week, I was at full time but couldn't really go out after work because I was just pooped. The following week was closer to normal, etc.
posted by spindrifter at 6:53 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]

In my many laparoscopies, when a catheter was required it was placed during my time under anaesthetic. I’m a squeamish person and this was a real concern for me. Removing it was done when I was awake and I didn’t feel anything more than a wipe and a peeing like sensation during the few seconds it took to remove it. Nursing staff are so efficient and gentle at this, and they encourage you to push the painkiller thumb pump beforehand to get you relaxed if you are feeling squeamish. My relaxant is the awesome oxygen mask they might leave on post surgery - gad I love that stuff.

Peeing after was not painful except for the part where I had to get out of bed to go to the toilet. .

I have found with the multiple ways surgical interventions involve mental obstacles [like blood draws or injections] that if I still my mind with ‘is this actually hurting me physically?’ I can remind myself that this ‘pain’ of tubes being removed is a mental one. Close your eyes, count to ten, remind yourself it’s less than three or four seconds of discomfort and your brain is strong enough to get through it.

In my experience, it is much more than 48 hours to drive safely, move around comfortably or resume exercise. Endo is more than snipping out ovaries in a 20 minute procedure which surgeons usually anticipate. It is a trickier surgery that may involve other organs [my ovaries were glued down to bowel, uterus and the back of my cervix and took ~3 hours to remove, ymmv]

At home, the best thing for me to use has been a small heated pack - in Australia we have wheatpacks to put in the microwave for a minute. The gas pain is REAL, and probably the most insistent pain post surgery so don’t underestimate how a heat pack draped around the shoulders can soothe that referred pain. Lying with your legs in a relaxed and supported in supta baddha konasana helps with gas and relaxing the pelvic area.

Best wishes for your surgery and a speedy recovery.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:59 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]

I had a unilateral salpingo-oophrectomy (I love that name, that's the exact name for "removing one ovary and one tube), but I did not have a laprascopy since I was an emergency case; I'd turned up at an ER with extreme abdominal pain and they spent 9 hours trying to figure out what was going on with me before they finally discovered it was ovarian torsion, and the way you treat ovarian torsion is apparently "yo, get the first open OR you can find and scrub up so we can take care of this NOW." I ended up with a 5-inch incision in my abdomen just above the pubic mound and still have the surgical scar.

I say that to emphasize that even despite the dramatic nature of my surgery, the recovery was actually not bad. Especially:

stories where you had a catheter during surgery and it caused zero problems and you couldn't feel anything wrong down there after you woke up would be very welcome.

I can almost word-for-word say exactly this. They put a catheter in during the surgery, and I literally didn't even know it was there when I came to afterward. I only found out that I even had a catheter in in the first place when the nurse came to my room two hours after surgery to say that she was there to take it out. "....Take what out?"

"You have a catheter. I need to take it out."

"....I do?"

"Yes. ....I'm taking it out right now."

"you are?"

"Yes. It's out."

".....I didn't even know it was there in the first place."

Something that may have helped with the removal was that I was also on a morphine IV drip. I was in the hospital for a day and a half following the surgery for observation; they had me hooked up to a morphine drip, which I could control with a little remote-control thingy in my hand. They explained to me that the thing was computerized to prevent me from having too much, and so every time I hit the remote-control thingy the computer would check to make sure I could have a dose. I remember hitting it a few times, and never came up to the point where the computer had to cut me off; but I think that may have helped with the catheter removal.

Other than that - I remember taking it really easy for a week afterward, but don't really remember any serious pain, except when I strained my abs (coughing, sneezing, laughing; and don't ask how I know, but orgasm three days after surgery is also a bad idea). I also had a weird thing where I couldn't sit in a chair and bend down to tie my shoes for a week; not because it hurt, but because the muscles that you use to do that literally didn't work. It was freaky, but it went away after a week. Having a pillow to hug to support my abs helped with the strain kind of pain. I think I had some kind of prescription for pain when I got out of the hospital but didn't use much, if any (I will say one thing for ovarian torsion, that really recalibrates your pain scale). After that week I was able to get back to work, but was still taking it easy; I think that my having a more dramatic surgery just left me in more need of healing. But I was still able to get to work, get around, run light errands, etc. Lifting heavy things took a couple more weeks.

My favorite nurse told me that I had to avoid "extracurricular activities with your boyfriend" for six weeks (we had LITERALLY just started seeing each other, so I asked what she meant, and she clarified that she just meant no penetrative sex; but everything else was okay). All things being equal, I bounced back pretty quick, and if I'd had a regularly-scheduled laproscopy, I'd probably have bounced back even quicker.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 AM on August 12

Hi! I just had laparoscopic surgery on June 17.

- My surgery was on a Monday morning and I was released on Friday morning, though my surgeon had me cleared to go on Thursday if I'd wanted.
- I slept a ton in the hospital.
- The shoulder pain was real! Much more real than any incision pain, and it lasted for about 4 days. The more I walked and did isolated stretches, the faster it went away.
- Activity was gradual and I felt very motivated to walk and move as time went on. The ICU nurse had me standing on the first night, walking to the sink on Day 2, talking short assisted walks/walks with a walker in the hallway on Day 3, walking independently with a walker on Day 4, and walking unassisted on Night 4.
- They sent me home with hydrocodone but I found that I could get away with just Tylenol after 48 hours or so. Tylenol is effective on me but not on everyone, so ymmv.

I didn't have a catheter but I had a double nephrectomy (both kidneys out!) so that might not have been applicable.

The incision sites were stitched and covered with a flexible glue that started wearing off after about two weeks. It'll start to itch and you have to leave it alone.

Riding home, I clutched a pillow gently to my abdomen to lessen the jostles.

The best advice I got (from a friend who had had laparoscopic ovarian surgery) was to wear something soft and stretchy, like high-waisted leggings, that fit over the site to feel more secure. Close fitting, but NOT TIGHT. This was the height of summer and leggings were out of the question, so I cut off an 8" band of said leggings and wore it under my pajamas. It kept the outer fabric from rubbing against the site unnecessarily.

I made a point to walk every day once I was home. Sometimes just to the corner, but more as time went on. But starting out, it was several short walks a day. If you get out to a store for a change of scenery, walk with a cart for balance and support.

I didn't have much of an appetite in the hospital and for several weeks after, so the focus was on small, healthy, protein-rich meals with vegetables.

Oh! After I got home, I wasn't able to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for two weeks, so that meant having a family member stay with me to open and close my heavy windows. After two weeks, I was cleared to lift 15 pounds and add 5 pounds every week.

I was enthusiastic about surgery and happy with my surgeon and recovery team, and I was fine in the hospital, but I found myself weirdly emotional for 2-5 weeks after I got home. Like, I'd get cranky and want to be alone, and then I'd get super clingy. My laparoscopy-experienced friend says that's perfectly normal, but it's out of character for me and it felt super weird.

I'm exactly 8 weeks out now and the scars are a deep pink but healing. My doctor recommended Vitamin E oil to make the scars disappear but I'm kind of fascinated by them so I'm shopping for a two-piece regardless.
posted by mochapickle at 7:22 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]

Oh! I was cleared to drive short distances (2-3 miles) immediately, but caregiver family member nixed it, and that was probably for the best. Obviously if you are on pain meds, you shouldn't drive.
posted by mochapickle at 7:27 AM on August 12

I keep thinking about your question!

You mentioned a wedge pillow. I didn't even use the wedge pillow. Sitting up was fine with cushions behind me, and the surgeon even cleared me sleeping on my side early on.
posted by mochapickle at 8:26 AM on August 12

I had laparoscopic surgery for an ovarian cyst with torsion. For me the recovery was easy -nothing like the pain of the cyst. I had emergency surgery Monday morning, and was home by the afternoon. I took the week off of work.

I had no catheter, but I did have some period-like bleeding for a while, so get some pads. Ask about the surgery! I did not, and was surprised a year later when my doctor casually referred to the endometriosis they found.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 8:39 AM on August 12

I had this procedure done in 2016, and it was generally pretty okay. Apart from what people have covered here, I will note that the painkillers they gave me were terrible. They helped with the pain, so that was good. And they helped me rest and sleep. But they also made me wildly itchy and, a few hours after my last pill (I only took like...8 of them, over a period of days), I had the most intense sadness, crying for the next 24 hours, inconsolably. I theorized that it might have been hormonal, with the nature of the surgery prodding at my ovaries, or that it was linked to whatever the opiates did to me. It was cathartic, in retrospect. But it was intense. So maybe prepare for some surprising emotional stuff to come out.

Food was super chill and much more of a non-issue than I was expecting. The first day, I leaned on ginger chews and mineral water, had a milkshake, and some tomato-based gazpacho. It felt nice to go outside, I remember, just sitting at a table on the patio.
posted by witchen at 8:40 AM on August 12

stories where you had a catheter during surgery and it caused zero problems and you couldn't feel anything wrong down there after you woke up would be very welcome


I had a different abdominal surgery and I think the weirdest thing is that, unless you're an athlete or something, you don't necessarily realize how many movements involve the use of those muscles. Expect not to be able to easily bend down or turn your torso (e.g., for hygiene reasons) for a while. Others have covered the loose-fitting clothing and the pillow to grab during coughing and the like.
posted by praemunire at 9:42 AM on August 12

I had this surgery three years ago and it went well. I surprisingly did not have pain from the gas afterward, but I think that's common enough that I'm an outlier. I had no idea that I might have a catheter during the surgery, but apparently I did; it was gone before I woke up, but peeing the first time stung. After that, however, everything was fine. But nobody told me it would sting, so it was kind of alarming for a moment.

I slept the first night in a recliner, because the idea of rolling over and getting up in bed was intimidating. That was the hardest thing about recovery, actually; I was mostly reasonably comfortable, and Advil handled the pain, but I felt very wary about bending or twisting. When I did want to lie flat, I would ask my partner to give me an arm to grab on to when I got up, so I could rely on more than my own abdominal muscles. I think you should buy any sort of wedges or supportive pillows that you think you might need to get yourself into a comfortable position. You may not end up needing them all, but you won't know what positions are comfortable until you try them.

For the remainder of the day of surgery, I was sleepy from the anesthesia and napped a lot, but I did not feel sick. I was eating normally by the next day, and ready to be up and around, at least moderately. They only ended up removing part of a Fallopian tube, though; what they thought was an ovarian cyst turned out to be attached to the tube and they were able to leave everything else intact. (I was surprised at how little they could tell even from the MRI, actually; the situation turned out not to be exactly what they thought it was.) I gather the minimal amount of stuff removed may have made my recovery easier.

Also, right before surgery, when I was in no state of mind to consider things, I was asked if I wanted an abdominal nerve block injection. I freaked out a bit -- how did I know if I wanted it?? I didn't even have time to research it on the internet! -- and said no at first, but a few minutes later my kind and gentle anesthesiologist showed up to chat, told me a little more about it, and suggested that it would probably help, so I agreed to it. I think it did keep my immediate post-surgery discomfort down to a minimum. Having a numb belly was a little weird, but worth it. I have no idea if this is a common thing or not.

I skipped the period immediately after all this, and was only later told that was pretty normal. I did not have the bleeding that some people mention immediately after the surgery. My doctor had me out of work for two weeks, but I got very bored and restless and would have been perfectly capable of working at my desk job in under a week. My friend who had an ovary removed appreciated having two weeks, though.
posted by kite at 10:35 AM on August 12

I've had laparoscopic surgery like this twice: once for removing Stage 3 endometriosis and once for a hysterectomy.

My experience with the catheter both times was fine. I woke up with it in after my hysterectomy. After filling up my bladder with fluid, the nurse removed the catheter immediately. It was painless and quick. For my first surgery, I woke up without the catheter in. I would imagine they can accommodate your request to remove the catheter prior to you waking up. Just remind them the morning of your surgery.

Follow the directions from your doctor about what to do during your recovery as best you can. One of the most important things you can do is walk around and slowly increase the number of steps you take each day, but don't overdo it. Sitting in the bed or on the couch for days is not recommended. Lifting weights a week after surgery seems ambitious. I believe you can't pick up anything more than 10 lbs. or so for the first week. Again, your doctor/nurse will send you home with specific written instructions.

I found the opioids to not really help with the pain, and instead I relied on ibuprofen. It sounds like your doctor won't be given you many painkillers anyway if they're saying you can drive 48-72 hours after surgery (you're not allowed to drive while taking opioids).

I ate whatever I wanted afterwards. My appetite was pretty diminished. Make sure you're taking Colace or another stool softener. You'll be constipated for awhile and will need it.

The surgeon should schedule a follow-up appointment for you to discuss the results of the surgery (what they found) and show you any pictures they took.

Wishing you a smooth and speedy recovery!
posted by purple24 at 10:37 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]

I've been caretaker after a number of lap and non-lap abdominal surgeries and the number one predictor of general overall outcome has been patient's commitment to slow the hell down, way way way down, for weeks, even though it is boring and we live in a culture that doesn't want to allow it. Embrace a month being frustrated about it up front to spare yourself an additional half-year of recovery from the thing you sproinged (or the prolonged life-eating exhaustion that won't go away) from trying to push too hard.

The human brain wants very very badly to jump up and dust the body off and pretend everything is fine, to keep from being eaten by hyenas. A reasonable thing for a brain to want, but the hyenas are (I hope!) irrelevant to your actual recovery. But you have to keep one suspicious eye on your brain, because it's not going to stop worrying about the hyenas, and it's going to insist you must drive the moment the doctor clears you to drive and that you must work and you have to mop the floor and pick up that heavy thing and run errands during your medical leave because that's what not-getting-eaten-by-hyenas members of the herd do. You can push back against those anxieties and conventions.

Resetting your expectations now, before you are dealing with the physiological trauma of surgery and hyenas, will help. Resist all the temptations and devote your entire medical leave to recovery, as mind-bogglingly boring as that is and as anxiety-causing as it is to not act like a superhuman. Do your walking, take your fiber, understand that this is a long tail recovery: yeah, technically you can go back to work in a week but you would not have to do that in a humane world, it would be several weeks minimum. At the end of the year, you may very well look back and not feel like you're 100% yet, and the harder you push in the first few weeks post-surgery the lower the percentage you'll be at by then.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:53 AM on August 12 [6 favorites]

I’m an OR nurse. A urinary catheter is neither sharp nor rigid. In fact it’s the exact opposite—it’s blunt and made of floppy rubber or silicone. I don’t say that to be dismissive of your sentiments about catheterization, just to clarify a potential misapprehension.

Only in the most emergent trauma cases should a catheter be inserted before the someone is anesthetized. You’re having a scheduled, non-emergent procedure, so you’ll be asleep when it’s placed, and it will almost certainly[1] be removed before you wake up.

[1] I say “almost certainly” because if the surgeons do find endometriosis on/near the bladder that needs removing, they may want to keep the catheter in place while they evaluate how your bladder responds to the surgery. It doesn’t sound like your preoperative ultrasound/CT scan suggested this might be an issue, so it’s a distant possibility, but I am hesitant to promise that anyone will wake up without a catheter because there’s no way to guarantee that before the surgery is performed.)
posted by jesourie at 11:54 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]

Start wriggling ever so slightly as soon as you start to come to in recovery. Don't actually move and nothing like rolling over, but making minute movements with the muscles, such as tense your abdominals a teeny bit and letting go. Twist your torso enough to lift one shoulder half an inch and then the other. Do lots and lots of this minute motions. There is at tendency to not move at all in case it hurts, and then to make a major move, like trying to get up so you can go pee. You will benefit a lot from slow, small delicate moves, like belly dancing almost invisibly while flat on your back.

this will let you explore how and what you can do without hurting yourself and show you that there are lots of things you can do without pain. If you start these whle you are still coming out of anaesthetic you will have lots of pain killers in you so that if actually sucking your tummy in is going to be painful you will figure that out before the pain killers wear off enough to make it seriously painful. It will significantly increase the circulation to the surgical site without stressing it and that in turn will significantly aid your recovery.

You know how when you graze the heck out of your shin dismounting your bike through the peddle it hurts like hell for five minutes, then the pain abates and it is owie for about two days and then you just have the terrible scab and it only hurts if you do something dumb like dismount the wrong way again and tear the scab off? Well, your surgical incision is just like that. It's the cut on the surface the hurts the most because you really don't need to know if you have a puncture under the surface, so you don't have a lot of nerve endings below the skin. Normally you go through the five minutes of intense pain while you are deeply unconscious and will be waking up with your surgical scar pain roughly equivalent to what it feels like after you have gotten home and put the bike away.

The pain in the inside where they cut the muscle is different and much like when you have a backache. Holding still in a comfortable position, once you find that comfortable position is generally enough to keep that to a level that is fine. Many people don't even need tylenol three post surgically. Of course while holding still is important, really gentle stretching speeds up the healing and helps it stop hurting much faster. The instinct to hold still and not move comes from the right reaction if you get an injury that hasn't been stitched, so you hold still to prevent it from not sealing up and more blood loss. But you don't have to worry about that, they will have stitched you up nicely, so movement is your friend. The trick is to be patient about moving tiny amounts frequently, not large amounts seldom.

You can massage the incision site through the bandage with your fingertips, pressing down a millimetre, pokey, pokey, around and around, maybe even two millimeters of compression if five minutes of massage one millimetre deeps doesn't hurt at all. Pretend your hand is a walking spider. This is also good for encouraging healing and toughening up the healing tissue. When my sister had this surgery she took more damage from the removal of the tape which tore skin off and raised blisters than she did from the actually cutting and handling of the abdominal contents. If you don't move there is less circulation and you are not signalling to the muscle fibres that you want them to grow. Growing is the same as healing. Another exercise you can do is to place a pencil or similar lightweight object on your abdomen and lie there making the pencil move, but not fall off by doing different abdominal muscle contractions, or torso movements. It looks silly which makes the exercise fun. There is a good chance you won't need to bother with anything like this at all - By the time you have a chance to play like this you will have already figured out how to move, sit up, and how far you can painlessly twist from side to side to get things off your bedside table. The incisions will probably be extremely small. They might even only be two inches long, just enough to get the instruments in and out.

Be prepared to stop eating and eat really small, really easy to digest meals, and nothing unusual to you for the next three or four days. Post surgical nausea is a thing, and quite wretched. If you feel the least bit of quease be careful. Unless you are massively underweight spending the next three and a half days nibbling saltine crackers and eating applesauce will do you no harm. Going on the brat diet - bananas, rice, applesauce and tea (or toast) is a kind thing to do to your intestines which may want to shut down processing temporarily just in case they got punctured. They won't have been damaged at all, but this is what intestines sometimes do when they get touched.

As for getting a catheter inserted, often this is only at all painful if you have a UTI. Your stream of fluid is about as wide as the slim and soft catheter they will insert, so for many people it is no more painful than peeing. I was a training patient for student nurses learning to insert catheters, and my experience is that they were a little bit painful, no worse than an injection, just a momentary sting during the second of insertion - but at that time my tissue was massively bruised and swollen from a hurried forceps delivery at that time, so much that I needed the help of the catheter to get the pee out. It only hurt at a time when wiping was painful too and all I wanted to do was blot lightly. Every other catheter since then has been nothing to speak of, not even almost as painful as a pin prick for an injection. You might have a more sensitive urethra than I do, but you are more likely to finish this experience no longer worried or scared about getting catheters any more.

You could ask them to show you how soft the tip of the urinary catheter is. It's not made of stiff plastic; it's made of the same soft plastic that the tube is made of, so soft that you can loop it around things, very flexible. It's not at all a hard plastic. It's much more like soft rubber. They will lubricate it to insert it. Many people don't feel it going in at all. They will probably insert a Foley catheter, if you want to read up about it, if you are like me who gets less scared the more I know. Since you have already told them that the idea of a catheter scares you they will probably be using one of the smaller diameter ones, possibly even a child sized diameter.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:22 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

I had a catheter left in for a week after bottom surgery. It was put in when I was under anesthesia. Having it in was a relatively minor part of the annoyance of early recovery — I wasn't acutely aware of it, but I had to remember it was there when I was moving around. (There was also hassle for my partner, who had to empty the bag it drained into, but that will be someone else's job while you're in the hospital.) Getting it out felt odd but not painful, and having it out was a relief.

My partner's healing from laparoscopic surgery right now, and something we didn't expect was how much her other muscles were going to be tired from taking up slack. Her back and shoulders are compensating for the fact that she can't do much with her abdominal muscles, and so they're really sore. Having me massage on them helps a lot, and we're going to send her for a professional massage once she can lie down on her front comfortably. She also uses topical magnesium for muscle pain. But so I guess generally, if there are things you find helpful or soothing for sore muscles, plan on wanting those.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:35 PM on August 12

Catheters aren’t rigid, if it helps you to re-conceptualize them- they’re flexible. Not like a pencil- more like aquarium tubing with a tapered, blunted end. Not scratchy or pokey at all. I have been catheterized for surgery and never even noticed it.

I’ve also catheterized a cis male friend who has a spinal cord injury like 50 times (into a penis so it has to go pretty far and be pretty flexible, and many people with SCIs need to cath 4 times a day, so it has to be gentle or it would damage the urethra, which it doesn’t).

So I feel comfortable saying that I think catheterization is a much more gentle procedure than I think you’re imagining.

Wishing you a good one!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:45 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I had a laparoscopy to clear a Fallopian tube and remove endometriosis in September. I am still somewhat bitter at the lack of information my doctor gave me about recovery. I had surgery on a Tuesday and he said I should be able to work again on Thursday and there was no way I could have done that. And I work from home!

I found afterwards that I was extremely tired. For the first four days, I slept. And slept. And slept. I was not in horrible pain but did stay on top of my pain meds. There was no waiting for the stuff to wear off. If i could take it every 6 hours, I and set my alarm to make sure, including overnight, for the first several days. It was not as painful as my c section but I was in more pain than I was expecting, possibly because of the expectations my doctor had set.

Take it easy on yourself. I had surgery on a Tuesday and by Sunday I wanted to get out. I went to a store and walked around for maybe 30 minutes and it wiped me out and I slept for most of the afternoon.

We have a two story home and for the first week, I slept in our downstairs guest room so I didn’t have to deal with stairs and had easy access to the kitchen. I could have gone back to sleeping upstairs a bit sooner but it was nice to not have to share a bed :) I am a side sleeper so I had a hard time sleeping. I found it easier to sleep propped up until I could sleep on my side. It wasn’t comfortable to do so for maybe the first two weeks in my case.

I was very bloated and that took a few weeks to subside. I was surprised and how long i was bloated for. I did have shoulder pain from the gas and it helped to move around a bit. I also drank peppermint tea which seemed to help. I found I didn’t want much “real” food for 3-4 days. Soups and toast were about it. But get stool softeners!

I had had a c section before so wasn’t unfamiliar with abdominal surgery. I went to the surgery center wearing a large mumu night gown and large undies that wouldn’t hit on the incisions (two small ones, a bit in from maybe my hip bones and my belly button). I wore night gowns/dresses for a week to avoid anything possibly hitting the incision uncomfortably.

Other tricks I had learned from my C section were to bring a small pillow to put under the lap portion of my seat belt for the ride home. And if I had to go upstairs, which I did not do for a few days, I went backwards to use more of my glutes than abs.

If you want a wedge pillow, by all means! I had one during c section recovery and it was nice. For the laparoscopy, I didn’t find it necessary and just piled up pillows. I did end up buying one of those lap tables for my laptop as it was uncomfortable to have it rest on my legs.

I also asked for the catheter to be inserted when I was under and they did that with no problems. They removed it before I woke and I wouldn’t have even known it had ever been there. I had had previous issues with anesthesia (hello vomiting non-stop after a c section), so told the anesthesiologists this and they gave me some stuff to prevent that before the surgery.

I was technically cleared to work out after my stitches were removed but I didn’t really feel up to it for 3 weeks.

Good luck on your procedure! Just listen to your body and take it as easy as you need to.
posted by polkadot at 7:54 PM on August 12

I had three lap procedures over the years, first was exploratory, the other two to tackle endometriosis. The final one, which was about 20 years ago, was really hard on my body. I felt out of it much of the first week. My surgeon wanted me to go back and have my uterus and a large ovarian cyst removed because the disease was so bad but I didn’t feel like I was physically strong enough to tolerate more serious surgery. I had meds to manage the monthly pain and figured I didn’t have many more years until menopause and a resolution without surgery.

I am sharing this story not to frighten you but to echo what others have said that you should not be surprised if your body doesn’t bounce back as quickly as your surgeon suggests. In my experience, they tend to be upbeat and optimistic. That is great, just don’t blame yourself or feel shame if your recovery comes more slowly. No one suggested warm pads or pillows for my shoulder pain; I wish they had. So make sure you have something like that. And be gentle and accepting of whatever your situation is after surgery. My procedures all went well; bet yours will, too.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:50 AM on August 13

Yeah, add me to the list of those who think your surgeon sounds overly optimistic for how long it'll take to recover to the point of doing normal things. The first lap I had was for endo and the surgeon was not a specialist and not comfortable with removing most of the endo. The recovery was about 2 weeks until I could work, but I was still very, very tired and sore after that. The second lap I had last year with an internationally renowned endo surgeon who took out a lot of deep infiltrating endo, a huge piece of my peritoneum, my uterus, cervix, and both tubes. That was a much longer recovery.

With the second one, I did have a catheter, but they took that out when I was in the recovery room and I barely remember it and don't remember it being any more painful than anything else (note, your recovery room experience will be better than mine, because mine was marred by them being unable to give me decent pain relief because of a mixup with my pain management practice). I also had a pain catheter than went into my belly and was basically a drip hose of anesthetic. That helped a lot, but I think it was a clinical trial, so not sure if you'll get that or not.

I did not have the gas pain with either surgery. I will nth the advice to take your pain meds as prescribed -- it is way better to stay on top of the pain than try to catch up once you're already in pain -- and use lots of Miralax. It tastes like nothing and didn't cause me cramping, it was fantastic compared to my first surgery where it felt like I was literally shitting my guts out.

Other things that were helpful: one of those boyfriend pillows with the arms was my Favorite Thing both on the couch and in bed. Cold packs were amazing, I didn't really want heat. And I couldn't really do anything for myself the first week, but it sounds like you will have help and your surgery should be a little easier than mine.

Good luck! The MeFite Endo Club is tragically large but very helpful.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:48 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

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