It can be easy to think of
It can be easy to think of
There are 2 key reasons why you need to know about preparing well for surgery and the inside secrets to recovering afterwards:
1. You’re more likely to need surgery earlier in life than a man does
Stats vary but research from the US insurance sector shows that women have much more surgery than men – 1.5 million more surgeries among the top 10 procedures for each gender. “This is because women undergo neonatal and reproductive surgeries: caesarean section, sterilisation, hysterectomy, and removal of pelvic scar tissue for conditions like endometriosis,” says Dr Rebecca Thomas, Principal clinical safety officer and GP at Healthily.
2. You’re more likely to have complications if your surgeon is male
“Recent research has also found that women can have more post-op complications when the surgeon is male – which is still the majority of cases,” she adds.
If you have an upcoming operation it’s only natural to feel a bit nervous, and wonder how you can best set yourself up for a speedy recovery. Read on to get the inside track, the latest science-backed tips to put your mind at rest and help you feel in control.
Whatever your op, it’s important you arm yourself with some knowledge and be prepared for potential complications – as well as get the information you need to know how to recover so you’re back to your old self as quickly as possible.
Help yourself and follow our plan to manage your mind and body through surgery to the best recovery.
Prehabilitation (prehab) is all about good preparation for your body and mind prior to surgery. There’s a growing amount of scientific evidence showing that the better you look after yourself before surgery, the better your chances of a good recovery afterwards. An article in the British Medical Journal says major surgery is like running a marathon — and both require training. In prehab terms, women’s gynaecological procedures have been less well researched. So we’ve found out the very latest on what to do and why.
Muscle atrophy is when muscles waste away. It's usually caused by a lack of physical activity. However, the stress of surgery can release the hormone cortisol and also lead to muscle atrophy. So it makes sense to
And get aerobically fit too, with walking, running, cycling, swimming – choose something you enjoy and is easy to fit into your day or could be done with a friend. As your body needs oxygen to deal with the surgical stress response, being aerobically ‘unfit’ will not help your recovery, but getting fitter will.
It will improve your lung function which is affected by general anaesthetic – the earlier you stop the more likely you are to prevent postoperative chest infection.
Your body needs more nutrients and energy to repair after surgery, including sugars (glucose) and protein (amino acids). Major surgery triggers your body to break down or lose both fat and muscle (known as a profound catabolic state). So prepare by giving your body more of the huge reserves it needs to wound heal and recover afterwards by:
“Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if you have questions. It can be helpful to make a list of questions or concerns about your surgery, and discuss them with your doctor or surgical team, which can help to put your mind at ease,” says Dr Rebbeca Thomas.
Before you even get to the surgery you may question whether it’s necessary. A study from the University of Michigan in 2015 found that as many as 1 in 5 hysterectomy ops may not have been necessary.
If you do have surgery, your surgical team will give you all the practical information you need around what to eat and drink, medication to bring, and what to wear.
Try some support to make your operation prep feel easier.
“Many people can experience anxiety after the operation, particularly when they’re recovering or waiting for wounds to heal. There can be simple ways to deal with this including meditation or speaking with your doctor or nurse for reassurance,” says Dr Thomas.
Deep breathing exercises can also help to reverse the effects of anaesthetic and prevent chest infections.
The easiest way to be mindful and ‘meditate’ is to try a simple breathing exercise. Breathe in through the nose, and feel the air fill your lungs and expand your chest, slowly breathe out through the mouth and release, and repeat.
For some people, a mindful moment can happen while gardening, reading a book or walking. Read more about
“You can alleviate worries by asking for help from friends and family. If you’re the person who is used to doing everything, this is the time to let go. Ask for support if you need help when you get home,” recommends Dr Thomas.
A positive mindset will help you recover quicker. “Adopt a positive mindset and focus on a good outcome,” says Dr Thomas. Research shows that this will help speed up your recovery.
A large-scale 2009 study of almost 1 million women, looking at the postoperative risk of
The risk is higher in the first 12 weeks after an operation.
A general anaesthetic can affect the normal way that phlegm is moved from the lungs. Pain from the operation may also make it more difficult to cough or breathe deeply, which means there’s a higher risk of chest infection.
Risks are higher if you have existing conditions (such as COPD, smoking, hypoalbuminaemia, and being functionally dependent) but the main risk factor is the type of surgery, with higher risks associated with surgery to the chest, abdomen, and head and neck compared with other operations.
Here are 5 ways to help yourself to prevent a chest infection post-op:
It can be a very emotional time when you have a serious surgery like a hysterectomy or C-section – both with significant consequences, from the end of your natural fertility to the start of your role as mother to a new baby. Dealing with physical pain and recovery well can help make it easier to deal with the emotional process too.
When you have surgery that cuts into the abdomen it can affect your core muscles – which are directly linked to movement and good posture – in the long term and can take around 2 to 3 months to move comfortably.
Doing exercises that focus on your deep core muscles (not sit-ups) – simply drawing your navel to your spine and focusing on your posture is enough in pregnancy, or
Strengthening all the muscles in the torso will help you recover good posture and move better after the op.
It will take time to get back to normal,
As mentioned, abdominal surgery is usually major surgery that can knock you sideways both physically and emotionally. If you want more practical advice on how to recover from specific abdominal surgeries for women, follow the links below:
Having to go through surgery to help you on your journey to becoming a parent can be an emotional rollercoaster full of hope and concern, highs and lows. Knowing what to expect and being prepared to have a good physical recovery can help you feel stronger to deal with the emotional impact too.
It’s a possible treatment for conditions such as
“This can be a traumatic and emotional procedure, so it’s really important you discuss your options and the procedure with your nurse or doctor before the op,” says Dr Thomas.
“Not only are you dealing with serious surgery and possible complications, you’re also dealing with having a cancer diagnosis and its implications, and coming to terms with big, sudden changes to a part of the body many women associate with their sense of femininity, sexuality, and identity as a mother. Knowing what to expect, and getting a recovery plan in place can help you cope with the emotional side as well as the physical.”
All types of
It’ll take 3 to 6 weeks to physically recover and of course, this operation can be difficult emotionally, read more about
“Your surgeon will advise on the best treatment for you or different options that might be available. You won't always need the whole breast removed and on some occasions, the tumour can be removed whilst still conserving the breast,” says Dr Thomas.
Options include the following:
Read more about
Read more about other surgeries women may go through, and find out what to expect, how to prepare, and how to recover:
Whatever surgery you undergo there are some warning signs you should never ignore after your op, including:
Remember, don’t be afraid to speak up if there’s something that doesn’t feel right.
If you’re concerned about your condition, don’t forget to use our
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.