Recovering after Major Gynaecological Surgery
You should read this information along with any other
information you have been given about your admission and operation.
This information gives general advice based on women's experiences
and expert opinion from the Royal College of Obstetricians and
Gynaecologists (RCOG). Every woman has different needs and recovers
in different ways.
Your own recovery will depend upon:
- How fit and well you are before your operation.
- The reason you are having your operation.
- The exact type of operation you have had.
- How smoothly everything goes and whether there are any
complications during or after your operation.
Getting back to normal
A positive attitude
Your attitude towards how you are recovering is an important
factor in determining how your body heals and how you feel in
yourself. You may want to use your recovery time as a chance
to make some longer term positive lifestyle choices such as:
- Starting to exercise regularly if you are not doing so already
and gradually building up the levels of exercise that you
- Eating a healthy diet: If you are overweight it is best
to eat healthily without trying to lose weight for the first couple
of weeks after the operation. After that you may want to lose
weight by combining a healthy diet with exercise.
Whatever your situation and however you are feeling, try to
continue to do the things that are helpful to your long-term
Keep your bowels working
Your bowels may take time to return to normal after your
operation. Your motions should be soft and easy to pass. You
may initially need to take laxatives to avoid straining and
constipation. You may find it more comfortable to hold your
abdomen (provide support) the first one or two times your bowels
move. If you do have problems opening your bowels, it may
help to place a small footstool under your feet when you are
sitting on the toilet so your knees are higher than your hips.
If possible, lean forwards and rest your arms on top of your
legs to avoid straining.
You should not drive for 24 hours after a general anaesthetic.
Each insurance company will have its own conditions for when
you are insured to start driving again. Check your
Before you drive you should be:
- Free from the sedative effects of any painkillers.
- Able to sit in the car comfortably and work the controls.
- Able to wear the seatbelt comfortably.
- Able to make an emergency stop.
- Able to comfortably look over your shoulder to manoeuvre.
It's a good idea to practise without the keys in the ignition.
See if you can do the movements you would need to for an
emergency stop and a three-point turn without causing yourself any
discomfort or pain. When you are ready to start driving
again, build up gradually, starting with a short journey.
If you are considering travelling during your recovery, it is
helpful to think about:
- The length of your journey: journeys over 4 hours where you are
not able to move around (in a car, coach, train or plane) can
increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is
especially so if you are travelling soon after your operation.
- How comfortable you will be during your journey, particularly
if you are wearing a seatbelt.
- Would you have access to appropriate medical advice at your
destination if you were to have a problem after your
- Does your travel insurance policy cover any necessary medical
treatment in the event of a problem after your operation?
Are your plans in line with the levels of activity recommended
in this information?
If you have concerns about your travel plans, it is important to
discuss these with your GP or the hospital where you have your
operation before travelling.
For many people, being able to have sex again is an important
milestone in their recovery. You should usually allow 4 to 6
weeks after your operation to allow your scars to heal. It is
safe to have sex when you feel ready. If your vagina feels
dry, try using a lubricant. You can buy this from your local
When should I seek medical advice?
While most women recover well after their surgery, complications
can occur, as with any operation. You should seek medical
advice from your GP, the hospital where you had your operation, NHS
Direct or NHS 24 if you experience:
- Burning and stinging when you pass urine or pass urine
may be due to a urine infection. Treatment is with a course of
- Heavy or smelly vaginal bleeding or bleeding which starts
again: If you are also feeling unwell and have a
temperature (fever), this may be because of an infection or a small
collection of blood at the top of the vagina, called a vault
haematoma. Treatment is usually with a course of antibiotics.
Occasionally you may need to be admitted to hospital for the
antibiotics to be administered intravenously (into a vein).
Rarely, this may need to be drained.
- Red and painful skin around any scars:
This may be caused by a wound infection.
Treatment is with a course of antibiotics.
- Increasing abdominal pain: If you also have
a temperature (fever), have lost your appetite and are vomiting,
this may be because of damage to your bowel or bladder, in which
case you will need to be admitted to hospital.
- A painful, red, swollen, hot leg or difficulty bearing
weight on your legs: This may be caused by a deep vein
thrombosis (DVT). If you have shortness of breath, chest pain or
cough up blood, it could be a sign that a blood clot has travelled
to the lungs (pulmonary embolus). If you have these
symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.