Helping you manage after a major operation

Before you go home

Before you leave the hospital, make sure you have:

  • any medications you brought to hospital
  • any medications that the doctor has prescribed
  • any x-rays that you may have brought in
  • an appointment to return to the clinic for a check-up, (usually in six weeks unless the doctor wants to see you earlier). If an appointment is not made at the time of your discharge, it will be sent out to you in the mail.
  • a medical certificate if you need one.

Some women will also be given a letter for their GP.

What to expect after you go home

  • The time it takes to recover from a major operation is different for each person. We expect that it will take between six and eight weeks.
  • Vaginal bleeding will continue for five to ten days and there will be spotting for up to six weeks after the operation. If the bleeding continues or gets heavier and becomes like a normal heavy period, you should either go to your local doctor or come back to the Women’s Emergency Department. You should also see a doctor if you have offensive smelling discharge.

how to care for your wound

  • Keep your wound clean and dry. When you shower rinse with water and gently pat dry with a towel. For most patients we recommend you leave your wound uncovered. Dressings are not required after the first few days.
  • Do not use talcum powders, creams or disinfectant on your wound.
  • Watch for signs that the wound is irritated, like swelling or redness. If it is hot to touch or there is a discharge you should go to your local doctor or come back to the Women’s Emergency Department.
  • To help manage your pain take analgesia such as Panadol or Panadeine, or Panadeine Forte (if prescribed by the doctor), regularly every four to six hours.
  • If you are taking codeine you need to be careful not to become constipated. Mild laxatives like Metamucil or Nulax are helpful, ask your local pharmacist for advice.
  • Drink eight glasses of fluid daily, preferably water, to avoid urinary infections.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. You should avoid lifting anything heavier than a two-litre container of milk for the first three weeks. You should also avoid pushing shopping trolleys.
  • Avoid heavy housework or other strenuous activities for at least six weeks. Heavy housework includes vacuuming, washing floors, hanging out laundry, etc. After three weeks gently ease back into such activities. If you are concerned about how you will manage with your housework please ask a nurse about the free services that can be organised to help you
  • If you need to bend, squat at the knees rather than bending over.
  • Avoid driving a car for up to two weeks or until you feel comfortable. The reasons to avoid driving are:
    • the seat belt can aggravate the suture line
    • pressing down suddenly on brake may cause stomach pain
    • insurance companies often stipulate that you must not drive for a certain period after an operation. So even though you may feel ready to drive you should check with your insurance company.
    • For laparoscopic or pelviscopic surgery, you may resume sexual intercourse after vaginal bleeding stops and when you feel comfortable. In the case of open abdominal surgery or vaginal surgery, wait until you have returned for your follow-up appointment and your doctor is happy with your recovery. If you have any questions or concerns about resuming sexual activity please speak to one of the nurses on the ward.
  • Be aware of signs of infection
    The following symptoms may be a sign of infection:
    • sudden hot flushes or sweating
    • high temperatures above 38°C
    • sudden onset of pain that is not relieved by analgesia.
  • Following vaginal repair surgery it is best to avoid putting pressure on the vaginal area by straining to use your bowels. If constipation becomes a problem while you are in hospital you will be given a laxative to help relieve it.
  • Once you are back to a normal diet after your surgery you can help prevent or relieve constipation by eating high fibre foods and drinking plenty of fluid.
  • Fibre, which is the roughage in plants, increases the bulk and softness of the stool and makes it less likely that you will have to strain to use your bowel.
  • Eat regularly over the day. Your body needs food every few hours to stimulate the bowel.
  • For the best results include fibre from a variety of foods.
  • Try the following high fibre foods:
    • Fruits and vegetables ( leave skins on if possible)
    • Wholemeal and wholegrain bread ( types with lots of grain contain more fibre and some people find soy and linseed bread helps their bowels)
    • High Fibre breakfast cereals such as muesli, Allbran, Guardian, Healthwise, Bran Plus, etc.
    • Dried beans such as baked beans, kidney beans, split peas
    • Dried fruit, nuts
    • Brans such as wheat bran, rice bran, barley bran or oat bran can also help. Start with one to two tablespoons. More may cause wind or bloating.
    • Prunes work well for some people. As well as fibre they contain a substance that stimulates the bowel. Start with six prunes or 1/2 cup of prune juice.
  • Drink plenty of fluid - at least seven or eight cups a day. Fibre works by absorbing fluid. If you don't drink enough it can make the constipation worse. Don't drink too much strong tea and coffee as these make you produce a lot of urine and can 'dry you out'
  • Don't ignore the urge to go to the toilet when it comes. If you need to, take the laxatives that have been prescribed for you. If your bowels are not working or you are still having to strain, contact your GP/doctor.