My supracervical hysterectomy healing process went really well overall. I was scared about the procedure, given that I was having an actual organ removed and not just my breasts (which felt very disposable and unnecessary).
Don’t get me wrong, my uterus felt disposable and unnecessary too—it was just that it was attached to a bunch of other stuff in my body, like my cervix, fallopian tubes, and maybe even my body itself. Ha. (But definitely not my soul.)
I felt way less scared about the surgery after getting my double mastectomy, as I felt like I knew what to expect, more or less. But here’s how it went and here are some herbs I used to help me heal.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and I am not recommending my specific healing protocol to anyone, nor am I suggesting that my hysterectomy healing process will be the same as yours. I am simply sharing my experience as someone who got a hysterectomy!
Preparing for Surgery
I didn’t do much to prepare for the surgery or the hysterectomy healing process outside of not taking my vitamins for about two weeks before. I made sure to wear loose and comfortable clothes to the hospital, and I ended up wearing my giant pink rainboots, as it was raining the day of my surgery.
As a lesson learned from my mastectomy, I made sure to drink plenty of water the day before the surgery and no salt the night before, as I wasn’t able to drink after midnight on the day of the surgery. For some reason, with this surgery, I was told I could drink up to 20 ounces of water until 8 a.m. on the day of the surgery, so I did that and I do feel that it helped me feel less dehydrated and sick after the procedure.
I also took my arnica homeopathic pellets, as I did with my mastectomy. I took five of them before the surgery and five after, then three to five pellets two times a day for about five days after the procedure, at the direction of my herbalist.
The Day of the Surgery
Before the surgery, I spoke with the nurses and anesthesiologists and surgeons who would be there during the procedure.
Why there were so many people, I don’t know. There were a few nurses, three anesthesiologists, and three surgeons. Some of these people were in training and there to observe the procedure.
I didn’t really like that all these people were there, but I wasn’t going to object. I mean, these professionals have to learn somehow, right?
When I spoke with the anesthesiologist, I told him about my terrible experience with the anesthesia during my mastectomy. I was very anxious when I woke up from the procedure and nauseous and dizzy for three days following that surgery. He said they would give me Valium prior to the procedure to ensure I wasn’t anxious when I woke up and other medications in my IV to help with the dizziness (medications such as Valium can help manage post-operative anxiety).
When the time came for my surgery, one of the anesthesiologists came in to give me Valium in my IV. I’m not sure if it was because it was given to me in an IV or because I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for hours, but that stuff hit me like a brick in the face. Seconds later, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open as they wheeled me toward the operating room.
I remember getting into the operating room and someone asking me to get from my current bed onto the operating table. I was having trouble doing this because of my IV and also the Valium. Getting on that table is the last thing I remember.
After the Surgery
The next thing I remember is the anesthesiologist who gave me the Valium shaking my feet and yelling my name. But this is a brief memory.
When I wake up again, I am lying in what appears to be the same bed in the same room that I was in before I was taken to the operating room. The first thing I say is, “It hurts.” My abdomen was really hurting. It felt like menstrual cramps, but different, more sore. It felt like I had had an organ removed.
A nurse came to give me pain medication. I dosed in and out of sleep. I wasn’t anxious. It simply felt like I was waking up from a long and intense sleep (which was a completely different and much nicer experience than waking up from my mastectomy). My surgery was about three hours long.
As I woke up more, I remember asking the nurses if the surgeon was able to keep my cervix and ovaries (I was told right before the surgery there was a chance they would have to be removed if there was endometriosis on them). They said that they were kept and everything was fine.
But I didn’t really believe it until I saw a text from my husband saying he spoke to the surgeon and that my cervix and ovaries were left intact. It felt like a miracle—the surgery went exactly as I wanted it to.
I had to go to the bathroom. The nurse—her name was Ashley—helped me to the bathroom to pee a few times. I was exhausted and wanted to lie in bed and sleep. The hospital was trying to discharge me even though I could barely walk. Eventually, after deciding I would not go home that night, I was transferred to a different floor, where I had my own room and bathroom. At this point, it was pretty late at night.
I cried as the nurses got me in bed and wrapped these weird devices around my legs to prevent blood clots or something. It was all just a lot to process. My husband came to visit me earlier in the evening but had just left to go home and take care of our animals. He would return the next day to take me home.
Here Come the Bladder Issues
I didn’t realize it, but I had developed urinary retention after the surgery, which means I was not able to completely empty my bladder when peeing. I kept getting up in the night to pee a lot (by myself most times, as calling the nurses was a hassle), but each time I felt a kind of burning sensation, like I had a lot more to pee but nothing was coming out.
I told the nurses about it, but it wasn’t until the afternoon of the next day that they did a bladder scan and found that, despite the fact that I had been urinating a normal amount, there were over 900 milliliters of urine still in my bladder.
One of the nurses did a straight catheter on me, which was not horrific but very uncomfortable, to drain the urine, hoping that would help my bladder come back online. It didn’t. A couple hours later, despite peeing, there were 500 milliliters in my bladder still.
That was when they decided that they would have to do an indwelling catheter.
If you’ve never had a catheter before, I can’t explain to you how awful they are. Basically, someone shoves a tube up your urethra to drain urine. The straight catheter was not that bad, but the indwelling one was terrible. A different nurse did it and I think at that point my urethra was pretty irritated, so it hurt and I cried. The nurse, who disclosed that she had never had a catheter before, asked me why I was crying.
The tube for the catheter continued to twitch inside me, which caused me pain. It was really awful. I cried a lot and started hyperventilating when the nurses came back to try and fix the catheter and stop the twitching, which meant they had to partially remove it and reinsert it. At that point, my husband was there, but unfortunately, no one could comfort me much.
Despite the fact that I was not in any way comfortable with the catheter or managing it, the hospital discharged me. I spoke to my surgeon and he said I could stay, but that insurance might not cover it because having a catheter isn’t a good enough reason to stay.
That was enough to get me out of there. I worked really hard to get insurance to cover the procedure; I wasn’t getting charged unnecessarily just because of this stupid catheter.
My surgery was on a Thursday. I had the catheter put in on a Friday. It was supposed to stay in for five days until my post-op appointment on Wednesday. There was no way that was happening.
I got through Saturday with the catheter (probably only because of the pain meds though), and then on Sunday night, I took it out. It had become so painful that all I could do was lay on the couch and cry; I couldn’t even move. I spoke to my surgeon and the doctor on call before I removed it and they said it was fine.
Fortunately, my bladder issues had resolved by then and I was able to completely empty my bladder. But if they didn’t, I would have had to go to the emergency room to get another catheter put in, which I was definitely not trying to do.
The catheter was by far the worst part of the procedure, as both my husband and I will tell you. And it wasn’t even because walking around with a giant bag of pee on your leg is disgusting and emptying it was gross—it was because of how uncomfortable it was and how I shrieked every time I stood up because of how much it was twitching inside me. Ugh!
Apparently, urinary retention is not uncommon during the hysterectomy healing process. During the surgery, they put a catheter in to drain the bladder, and my surgeon said this can really throw off the bladder. I wish I didn’t have to have a catheter inserted during the surgery, but for reasons I don’t really understand, this is just what they do. I do wish that they had just left the catheter in since I had to have one put back in anyway while I was awake.
The Hysterectomy Healing Process
My hysterectomy healing process was relatively simple. My abdomen hurt pretty bad after the surgery, particularly around my belly button, which is where the biggest incision was. I took all the meds they gave me because I was really uncomfortable (especially with the catheter) and the meds helped.
Getting up without help was impossible because I couldn’t really “bend” my abdomen properly to sit up or stand up because it hurt so much. I was able to walk around pretty well once I was up, but sitting and standing were bad. I also had a binder that I wore after the surgery, similar to the one I had during my mastectomy, which helped me feel a little better and move around a little easier.
It just took time to feel better. After a couple weeks, I was feeling pretty good and the pain in my stomach was virtually gone. At my post-op appointment a few days after the surgery, a doctor confirmed that my bladder was functioning normally.
When I saw my primary surgeon three weeks post-op, he said everything looked great and I didn’t need to come back. That was good because I didn’t really want to see someone who did a gynecological exam on me while I was unconscious that I didn’t find out about until after the surgery when reading my case notes.
What Herbs and Supplements Did I Take?
I did a few things to help accelerate my hysterectomy healing process.
- In addition to my arnica tablets, I drank the same herbal broth that I drank after my mastectomy, which included reishi, burdock, comfrey, and a bunch of other healing plants (you can see the recipe here). I took arnica tablets for about five days after the surgery.
- For my bladder issues, I started drinking a dandelion infusion at the direction of my herbalist almost immediately after getting home, which I made with both fresh dandelion from my yard and dried dandelion from Mountain Rose Herbs. It was disgusting, but I do feel that it helped my bladder come back online after the surgery. I did this for maybe one week after my surgery.
- I also drank an infusion at the direction of my herbalist to support my healing. I made a quart of this every night and drank it the next day. It was equal parts oat straw, raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, and alfalfa leaf. I didn’t mind the taste of this. I did this for about two months after my surgery. My herbalist also suggested I add yarrow and some additional nettle to support my bladder for healing, so I did this for about the first month.
- I took two different tinctures to support my healing at the direction of my herbalist. The first was a yarrow tincture, which I started three days after the procedure and took for a month post-surgery. The second was a Solomon’s seal tincture, which I took for two months after the surgery. I made both of these myself.
- My herbalist also suggested that I apply a topical ointment of Solomon’s seal to my abdomen/hip area, but although I made the ointment, I didn’t end up using it. It just felt like too much on top of everything I was already doing, and the thought of lying around with oil slathered all over my body didn’t exactly thrill me when I was already uncomfortable.
I also used a heating pad to help with the discomfort of my stomach in the first week during my hysterectomy healing, which my herbalist also suggested and I found to be very helpful (that heating pad has helped me a lot with menstrual cramps too).
Returning to Sex After Hysterectomy Healing
Returning to sex was a little weird after my hysterectomy healing just because I still felt like my body was fragile. We definitely did not do any actual intercourse until at least six weeks post-op just to be safe at the direction of my surgeon.
My cervix felt like it was “hiding” (not sure how else to describe this) for a couple months after the procedure and we didn’t go crazy with sex because I felt it was still healing. It just felt different for about two months after the procedure.
Now, things are great and I have to say, it is pretty amazing to not have a period and not have to worry about getting pregnant. I’ll be posting an article soon about my life now without a uterus (hint: it’s awesome).
Although the catheter was terrible and the surgery was not fun, I overall feel like things went really well and I am really happy with how I healed and how I’m doing now, and I am very happy with my decision to leave my cervix in.
If you’ve had your uterus removed, I’d love to hear what helped you get through your hysterectomy healing process!