After surgery, it's normal to have a sore belly, cramping, or pain around the cuts the doctor made (incisions) for a few days. You can expect to feel better and stronger each day. But you might get tired quickly and need pain medicine for a few days. Some people are able to return to work the day after surgery. Others need to recover for a few days to a few weeks before going back to work.
Sometimes pressure from the gas used during surgery causes other side effects. You may have pain in your neck or shoulders. Or you may feel pressure on your bladder and need to urinate more often than usual. These side effects should go away in a few days.
Do not lift anything heavy while you are recovering so that your incisions can heal.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- Try to walk each day. Start out 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 until your doctor says it is okay. 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, and aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
- You may shower. Pat the incisions dry when you are done. Do not take a bath for the first week after surgery or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- You may need to take a few days to a few weeks off work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
- Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex or use tampons. Do not douche.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be safe with medicines. 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, take an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines contain acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
- 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.
- 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 have strips of tape on the incisions, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
- Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry.
- Keep the area clean and dry. You may cover it with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
- You may have some light vaginal bleeding. Wear sanitary pads if needed.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and avoid anything that puts pressure on your belly, such as a girdle, for a few weeks.
- You may want to use a heating pad on your belly to help with pain.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
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 or tampons every hour for 2 or more hours.
- You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
- You have vaginal discharge that has increased in amount or smells bad.
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- 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 loose stitches, or your incisions come open.
- Bright red blood has soaked through the bandages over your incisions.
- You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg.
- You cannot pass stools or gas.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
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