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FAQ: Self-Care After Gynecologic Surgery

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What activities can I do after gynecologic surgery?

You should refrain from any exercise or strenuous activity for the first 48 hours after surgery, but may resume your normal activities as soon as you feel able to, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.

Wait until you have been cleared by your doctor before you begin exercising again. Walking is fine and encouraged, if you feel up to it, to help aid your recovery. You can also use stairs if you feel able. Remember not to drive while taking narcotic pain medications.

Until you have been cleared by your doctor, do not use tampons, douche or have sexual intercourse. You may take showers, but swimming, bath tubs and hot tubs should be avoided until your doctor says it’s okay.

Is there anything I should or shouldn’t eat after surgery?

No. After your surgery you can eat whatever you feel up to eating. Just make sure to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

I heard narcotic medications can cause constipation. What should I do to relieve constipation?

To prevent constipation, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and increase the fiber in your diet. It may also help to take a stool softener, like Colace, while on narcotic medications. If you continue experiencing constipation, we recommend using an over-the-counter medication, such as Milk of Magnesia or MiraLAX®.

How should I care for my incision?

Keep your incision clean and dry, and pat dry after you take a shower. If you have steri-strips (adhesive strips) covering your incision, they can be removed seven to 10 days following your surgery. If the strips begin to come off on their own before this, you can either remove them or trim the edges with scissors.

If you have staples in your incision, you should have an appointment already scheduled to have them removed at the clinic. If you have stitches underneath your skin, these will dissolve on their own over time. If you have stitches have a knot that sticks up above the skin, this may be trimmed or removed at your follow-up clinic visit. Note that it is normal for some bruising to occur around the site of an incision.

What should I take for pain relief?

You may take Tylenol® or ibuprofen for mild post-operative pain. If you are sent home with a prescription for a narcotic pain medication, such as Vicodin or Percocet, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for taking it.

Should I be concerned if I experience bleeding or spotting after surgery?

Any bleeding or spotting you experience should diminish over time. Use maxi pads or panty liners, but not tampons, unless your doctor says it’s okay. You only need to call your doctor if you are soaking through a maxi pad in less than one hour or if you are passing large blood clots.

How long will my recovery take?

Every patient is different and will have a different course of recovery.

What are normal symptoms experienced after surgery?

Most symptoms usually improve within the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery and can include:

  • Soreness around the incision site
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat (if you had a breathing tube during surgery)
  • Nausea (a side effect of anesthesia and certain pain medications)

When should I call my doctor?

You should call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms after surgery:

  • A fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Severe abdominal pain not relieved by pain medication
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting, or if you are unable to keep fluids or food down for more than 24 hours
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder
  • Bright red vaginal bleeding that soaks through a pad in an hour’s time
  • Increased bleeding, redness, swelling, odor or drainage from your incision
  • Pain, tenderness or swelling in your legs, especially the back of the calf
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing

For any concerns, call the UC San Diego Health Message Center, 619-543-6737, and ask for the OB/GYN doctor on call.