What is vaginal hysterectomy?

Vaginal Hysterectomy
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Vaginal hysterectomy: Overview

Vaginal hysterectomy is surgery to remove the uterus. It is done through a cut (incision) in the vagina. The cervix is usually removed too. In some cases, the ovaries and fallopian tubes also are taken out at the same time.

You may go home the day of surgery or stay in the hospital 1 to 2 days after surgery. You may feel better each day. But it may take 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover. The recovery time may be shorter for some people.

After the surgery, you will no longer have periods or be able to get pregnant. Most people can have sex without problems after they recover.

How can you care for yourself after a vaginal hysterectomy?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as biking, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
  • You may shower. If you have incisions in your belly, pat them dry when you are done. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take 2 to 4 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • Ask your doctor when it's okay for you to have sex.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fiber supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor tells you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.

Incision care

  • If you had surgery with a laparoscope, you may have stitches over the cuts (incisions) the doctor made in your belly. If you have strips of tape over the incisions, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Other instructions

  • You may have some light vaginal bleeding. Wear sanitary pads if needed. Do not douche or use tampons.

How do you prepare for a vaginal hysterectomy?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

After vaginal hysterectomy: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through your usual pads every hour for 2 or more hours.
  • You have vaginal discharge that has increased in amount or smells bad.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over the incision.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

After vaginal hysterectomy: Overview

A vaginal hysterectomy removes the uterus through the vagina. Your doctor made a cut (incision) in your vagina and removed the uterus.

You can expect to feel better and stronger each day. But you might need pain medicine for a week or two. You may get tired easily or have less energy than usual. This may last for several weeks after surgery. And you also may have light vaginal bleeding for a few weeks.

It's important to avoid lifting while you are recovering so that you can heal. It may take about 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover. The recovery time may be shorter for some people.

What happens on the day of your vaginal hysterectomy?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor has told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery usually takes about 1 to 2 hours.

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