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Total Abdominal Hysterectomy Surgery and Recovery

Updated on March 22, 2017
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Efficient Admin (aka Michelle) is an administrative professional who works at an engineering firm. She has been a homeowner since 2003.

Preparing for a surgery takes research and preparation.
Preparing for a surgery takes research and preparation. | Source

The Symptoms

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.

The Diagnosis

When your doctor informs you that you must get a total abdominal hysterectomy, it usually means uterine fibroids have grown so large that there are no other less invasive alternatives except an incision made across the bikini line. After you are finished hyperventilating from the news, be sure to do some research on your own and make another appointment to ask your 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 this fabulous hysterectomy website (listed in the box here on the right) for a lot of valuable information and community support.

Listed below are a few things you should do to get your house in order and ready for you when you get back home from surgery. Doing these few things in advance will make life much easier for you, because you certainly can't do them while you are recovering.

All of the Housework

Do all of 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. This may sound extreme but during the first week or two when you are healing from the stiches you really don't want to put any pressure on your lower abdomen. Take it easy and rest. Milk this down time for all you can. 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 stiches were and decided to let someone else do it.

All of Your Grocery Shopping

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 chilli 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. Hardboil 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. You will probably have to stay 2 nights in the hospital and they will only feed you liquids. On the morning of checkout they will feed you solid food but may tell you that you can’t leave the hospital until you have a solid bowel movement – they will give you 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.

It will be required that someone must drive you home after the surgery. The hospital will not let you drive yourself (and you shouldn't because you will be all drugged up on pain medication). They will not even let you take a taxicab. Make arrangements for a close friend or family member come pick you up when you are 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).

A few of these around the house during your recovery will help get you comfortable when sitting on chairs and sofa.

Around the House

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 -- there is a technique which you can look up on the internet that explains how to carefully get out of bed without straining your incision area. You must use your arms and legs.

Get in-home care assistance if needed.
Get in-home care assistance if needed. | Source

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 Yellowpages (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.

© 2012 Efficient Admin

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Not a pleasant topic but you handled it quite well with tons of useful information and suggestions. I had no idea it took a year to start feeling normal again. Great hub!

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Hi Billy. Thank you very much and yes it takes about a year that the "pinchy" feeling from the scar tissue begins to go away. It has a few similarities to a C-section due to the location of the incision. Thank for for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Deb Welch 4 years ago

      Thank you Efficient Admin for this Hub about what happens with a Hysterectomy operation by an incision abdominally. I was due to have an operation but changed my mind due to the surgeon wanting to do it laparoscpically and include many things that are not necessary. I am alone and life as I imagined would be unbearable. I could not drive for over a month and here I read it takes a year to feel normal again. I don't have uterine fibroids. I had even read that many of the operations are not necessary for fibroids. Thanks. Useful and Interesting. Good information. God Bless.

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Deb - thank you very much. My doctor told me I had no choice because other organs would be affected in a negative way if I didn't have them removed. It turned out there were 2 of them the size of grapefruits. They would have kept on growing otherwise. Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      thecatgallery 4 years ago

      Oh you poor thing, having to go through all that. But good for you for being so well organized for it with all your planning ahead. I know what BIG fibroids can be like although my experience was just a blood faucet being turned on once a month. And at night it required, as I recall, two super tampex as well as pads. But...I'd like to inform readers here that there is another way to remove fibroids other than hacking into your tummy. They can be removed through an existing opening--yes--the vagina. My doctor went in that way, cut the uterus and fibroids into smaller pieces, and pulled them out through the existing opening. He used a narrow laparoscopy scope through the tummy to help visualize the work. As far as I can recall there was no recovery time and I don't remember any pain afterwards. It was back to 'normal', although better than normal, right away. Not only were those horrible fibroids and loss of blood gone, but so were the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and fallopian tubes--a complete hysterectomy. It wasn't just relief from the fibroids, but all those potential cancer targets were gone, too. And no scars. So, an alternative approach is available for those considering a hysterectomy. Cheers. Dr.Eve

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      thecatgallery - it's amazing what they can do nowadays. My doctor told me the best option was the TAH because they were so large. It all turned out good though. Two days after surgery my doctor couldn't believe how well I was doing so soon. I had a lot of people praying for me and I believe that really helped too!

    • profile image

      Deb Welch 3 years ago

      Hi - I am following up with you - I had a Total Radical Abdominal Hysterectomy and also had a mesh sling put on my bladder. Everything was removed that wasn't needed. I was in the hospital 4 nights & 5 days - I had IV,oxygen,a cathater, and was given a series of three shot needles into my IV for pain (an opium derivative) that knocked me out within 5 minutes. Within two days - they took the oxygen off, the cathater out, and slowly weaned me off the IV needles to two different pain pills. I had terrible gas pain - I asked for Tums and Milk of Magnesia. I had three layers of flesh and muscle cut through with cautherization that was sewn and I had over 20 staples put on my abdomen like a railroad track. The last staple to be removed was a real bugger. That area needed to be made numb and with three needles and a bigger tool that last staple was removed. I screamed bloody murder. My pain level for the longest time was 7 or 8. I am still on disability from work and going for my 2nd Post-op appt. to be cleared for return to work.

      I followed all of the restrictions to the letter - without lifting,not driving,no baths,obviously no sex,no drinking alcohol with pills etc. I have had many people praying for me and my brother had helped me with shopping and whatnot. I didn't have fibroids. I had a prolapsed bladder and uterus plus cysts on my ovaries. I could not endure it anymore. I am so glad it is all over with and I will be going back to work to be trained for a new position. Thanks again for your helpful Hub and it is always good to have some sympatico. God Bless and Stay Well.

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      WOW Deb, that was a lot to go through! I'm glad they numbed you for that last metal staple. I had those metal staples too and I had to check them myself when I got home to make sure there was no infection. They were clean but it reminded me of Frankenstein. Congratulations on getting the new position. We seem to have a few things in common because during my healing time I applied for another position in the company (but didn't get it, which is a good thing because they ended up eliminating that position 1.5 years later). Yes the whole thing was quite an adventure from Day 1 and it sounds like you had quite an adventure as well and I'm very glad we both made it through!! Thank you for commenting and reading.

    • profile image

      ply@idwala.co.za 3 years ago

      I had a full Hysterectomy done and now suffer with severe joint pains is this normal I have been to my GP and he gave me Atro tabs i am very

      concerned nw.my Op is like four months old . I was physically fits

      due to my bleeding i had this op. please advise

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      ply@idwala.co.za - I am sorry you are going through this pain. I am not a doctor but I would suggest getting a second opinion from another doctor if you are still having problems and the current doctor doesn't seem to fix it. Ask around for referrals from people you know and see if you can get the name of another doctor to visit for a second opinion on your symptoms. I hope everything works out.

    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

      Gina Welds Hulse 6 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

      Thank you for this. I recently had a novasure ablation that did not work....only two weeks ago actually. I'm still recovering from that. I have made the appointment for the full hysterectomy for November 8th. It has been a long haul. As a lupus patient, I have had other health issues to deal with, but pernicious anemia and iron deficiency anemia were challenging. The the extreme bleeding started, and I had to do transfusions and infusions.

      I'm the type hat gets up the day after surgery and goes back to work. Thank you for reiterating my doctor's recent words. Having had ovarian surgery before, I know how tough the recovery can be if I don't listen to that one statement, "TAKE IT EASY!"

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 6 months ago from Charlotte, NC

      Gina, Wow that sounds like a lot to deal with and I hope you get better very soon.

    • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

      Gina Welds Hulse 6 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

      Thanks, Michelle. I am certainly working on it!

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