On a scale of one to ten, how terrified are you to undergo endometriosis surgery? Having endometriosis surgery for the first time is intimidating because you don’t know what to expect. I know I was a jumble of nerves and worried that I wouldn’t achieve any relief or change in my condition. Luckily surgery turned out to be helpful for me, and it could also benefit you. So, to help decrease your anxiety, let’s discuss the basics of healing post-endometriosis surgery.
Understanding Endometriosis and Its Symptoms
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the that lining the uterus is found elsewhere in the body. The thickening and shedding of this tissue contribute to pain and inflammation becoming an issue.
A few common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful periods
- Painful intercourse
- Heavy bleeding
- Abdominal bloating
- Painful bowel movements and/or urination
- Pelvic cramping
If you’re experiencing these symptoms and suspect you may have endometriosis, speaking to a medical professional with knowledge of this complex disease is essential.
Types of Endometriosis Surgery and Their Recovery Times
Typically, there are two main types of endometriosis surgery laparoscopy and laparotomy. A laparoscopy, or keyhole surgery, is a minimally invasive procedure in which small incisions are made on the abdomen.
Within these incisions, an instrument known as a laparoscope is inserted. A laparoscope is a tool that contains a light and a camera. It relays images to a monitor allowing the surgeon to view the organs within the abdomen. If lesions from endometriosis are found, the surgeon will use surgical tools to excise and remove lesions and adhesions.
A laparotomy is a major surgery in which an incision is made on the abdomen to allow the surgeon to view the organs of the abdomen. Similar to the laparoscopy, if endometriosis is found, they can excise and remove it while removing adhesions.
When it comes to recovery, you’ll experience a faster recovery time with a laparoscopy than with a laparotomy. Generally, you’ll need one to three weeks to properly recover from a laparoscopy. In contrast, it takes a minimum of six weeks to recover from a laparotomy. Keep in mind that recovery times will differ for each individual.
While laparoscopy is the more popular choice, there are instances in which a laparotomy is indicated. For example, if larger cysts are present, your surgeon may elect to perform a laparotomy instead of a laparoscopy.
Tips for Preparing for Endometriosis Surgery
Your surgeon will schedule a pre-op appointment to assess your physical health and eligibility for surgery and general anesthesia. During this time, they will share instructions on preparing for surgery, such as bowel prep, pre-surgery diet, when to discontinue supplements and medications, day of instructions, post-surgery instructions, and how to care for your incision.
Additional endometriosis surgery prep tips include:
- Designating a friend or family member as your designated caretaker
- Cleaning and organizing your home
- Choosing a specific room or space for your post-surgery recovery
- Grocery shopping and meal prep 2-3 days before surgery
- Purchasing mobility aids to help with post-surgery mobility
- Packing a small overnight bag with essentials and toiletries
Post-surgery Pain Management Options
Typically, your post-surgery pain management will be decided by your medical team. You’ll receive prescriptions for NSAIDs, opioids, and antibiotics.
You may also have a sore throat from the tube used during anesthesia. You can use throat drops or warm tea to resolve the discomfort. Other pain management options include using a heating pad or hot water bottle for lower back or shoulder pain.
If you had a laparoscopy and are experiencing bloating and gas pain, you may use heat therapy to help with discomfort. You may also find walking and consuming peppermint tea a great way to help ease gas and stomach discomfort.
Pain should improve and decrease as time passes; you’ll need less pain medication. However, you should contact your doctor immediately if the pain isn’t improving or worsening.
Rest and Relaxation Techniques to Aid in Recovery
Resting and decreasing stress is an integral part of the recovery process. One way to promote rest and relaxation is to organize and clean your home before endometriosis surgery. This way, you’re not trying to recover in a cluttered, dirty environment. Another tip is to designate a specific room or space for recovery.
Additional activities you can do to rest and relax include spending time in bed, breathing exercises, and circulatory exercises.
Remaining mobile and walking is essential, but so is prioritizing rest. Getting enough rest is crucial because it allows your body to heal and recover properly. Your surgeon will likely recommend you remain in bed for a specific time, especially if you had a laparotomy.
Although you’re bed-bound, performing breathing and circulatory exercises like those found here are essential to prevent blood clots and chest infections.
Proper Nutrition and Hydration During Recovery
Your post-surgery diet will typically be bland and consist of easy-to-digest foods while you recover from anesthesia. As you progress, you’ll be able to eat relatively normal foods. However, it’s essential to discuss with your surgeon if there are any post-surgery dietary restrictions.
Generally, you should be good to consume a well-balanced diet that consists of whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains. As part of your surgery prep, you’ll want to create a meal plan and stock up on non-perishable foods that are relatively easy to make.
Additionally, 1-2 days before your surgery, you can prep freezer-friendly meals ready for you to consume once you’re home for recovery.
A designated caretaker helping with grocery shopping and cooking healthy meals can be a huge relief. So, discuss this with them beforehand and develop an ideal game plan.
To prevent dehydration, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and clear fluids. You may consider purchasing a water bottle with time intervals or utilizing an app to help remind you to drink water.
How To Manage Post-surgical Scars
Your medical team will review how to care for your incision before discharge. Furthermore, how you care for your incision will depend on your type of surgery.
General care for your incision involves properly cleaning and changing bandages as instructed and inspecting the area to ensure the wound isn’t opening or becoming infected. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid using peroxide, ointment, or alcohol as they slow the healing process.
Another thing you’ll want to avoid is removing any scabs, sutures, or staples. Picking at scabs will interfere with the healing process and may cause scarring. And when it comes to sutures depending on the type, they may dissolve on their own or need to be removed by the surgeon.
The same goes for staples; around one to two weeks at your post-op appointment, you’ll have your staples removed. So, don’t try to remove them on your own.
As you monitor and care for your incision, be on the lookout for signs of infection, such as:
- Redness, swelling, and warmth
- Pain and tenderness
- Fever and chills
- Pus discharge
If you notice these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Exercises to Help Regain Strength and Mobility
Immediately post-surgery, you’ll be unable to participate in strenuous activity or lift heavy objects weighing over five pounds. The length of time depends on the type of surgery you have. Typically, you’ll refrain from these activities for four weeks for a laparoscopy. In contrast, you’ll need six weeks to recover from a laparotomy.
But you can do some activities during your recovery period that will help you heal. The primary activity that will be recommended for you to do is walking.
Walking helps to improve circulation and decrease the likelihood of blood clots. It’s recommended that you go on a brief walk every hour to two hours. If you’ve had a laparotomy, you may need a mobility aid to help you get around since you’ll have less core stability. Additionally, wearing a brace can help you stand straighter and make walking more comfortable.
While you’re in bed recovering, practicing basic stretching exercises is essential. As mentioned earlier, there are circulatory exercises that you can perform while bedridden, as well as abdominal exercises.
Regarding abdominal exercises, introduce these movements when you’re not in as much pain and discomfort. You can begin these exercises a few days post-surgery for laparoscopic surgery recovery. However, with a laparotomy, you’ll want to wait two weeks post-surgery.
Slowly add activities to your daily life once your doctor clears you to return to regular activity. Begin with light housework and meal preparation and progress from there.
I recommend starting with light resistance, such as Pilates, and slowly progressing when working out. Pilates is great for rebuilding core strength and working muscles using body weight, making it perfect for post-surgery recovery. Cardio workouts you can do are recumbent biking, walking, and light interval jogging.
Mental and Emotional Health Support During Recovery
Surgery is hard on the body and challenging for the brain. Hence, preparing for mental, emotional, and physical recovery is essential.
The best preparation is to decrease as much stress and anxiety as possible pre-surgery, which can be difficult. This is why I recommend having a designated caretaker go with you to appointments and help you manage pre-surgery prep and post-surgery care.
Also, having someone go through it with you helps you feel less alone. Additionally, you’ll have someone to talk to that will provide support.
Post-surgery, it’s common to struggle with depression, especially if you underwent a hysterectomy or ovary removal. Dealing with the anesthesia’s aftermath and your personal feelings regarding your surgery can bring despondence and anxiety. Being diagnosed with endometriosis, especially if you’ve struggled with pain and symptoms for so long, can also bring anger and frustration.
This makes managing your thoughts and emotions important. Consider therapy to help you navigate your feelings, or seek a support group.
Other ways to manage the post-surgery blues include enjoying walks outside and getting fresh air when cleared. Entertain yourself with uplifting books, movies, and t.v. shows. Seek to avoid isolating yourself and spend time with friends and family as often as possible.
Perhaps the most important is to allow yourself the time and space to heal. The healing process isn’t linear or the same for everyone. Remember, all information and suggestions are general guidelines to help give you an idea of what to expect and help you prepare.
The Healing Process
Healing post-endometriosis surgery is a process. However, knowing what to expect and planning can make it easier. Hence why working with your surgeon and your medical team is crucial. They will inform you about what you must do at each step of the recovery process. This includes pre-op instructions, post-op guidelines, and how to care for your incision correctly.
Lastly, enlist the help of a caretaker that will walk with you throughout your pre and post-surgery journey. Having a trusted person care for you decreases stress and anxiety and allows you to focus on healing. They will also be able to advocate for you when you’re unable. So, make sure you assign appropriate permissions for them.
Avoid comparing your recovery journey to others; take it one day at a time. Recovery isn’t linear, and there will be many adjustments you’ll need to navigate, especially when dealing with an endometriosis diagnosis. So, give yourself some grace and allow yourself the space you need for mental and emotional well-being.