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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 take.
  • 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 recovery.


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 policy.

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.


Travel plans

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.

Overseas travel:

  • Would you have access to appropriate medical advice at your destination if you were to have a problem after your operation?
  • 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.


Having sex

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 pharmacy.


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 frequently:   This may be due to a urine infection. Treatment is with a course of antibiotics.
  • 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.


Click here to see who you should call and under what circumstances.