Based on my own experience, here are some tips for recovering from a hysterectomy for transmen
Hysterectomy is a common FTM gender-confirming surgery. However, it can be a lot harder to recover from than you might expect – even if it is a laparoscopic hysterectomy. Recovering from a hysterectomy also holds special challenges for transmen, as it is considered a “female surgery.” I found this to be a very hard surgery to recover from – it took about three months to start feeling normal. And I did not regain full athletic fitness for two years! However, I was over 50 at the time, so that did not help.
Laparoscopic hysterectomies are said to be easier to recover from, but they require a highly skilled surgeon. And even with laparoscopic surgeries, there can be complications, such as in this video:
Top tips for recovering from a hysterectomy for transmen
Have a supply of sanitary pads (sadly, these will be necessary if you don’t want to bleed all over your bed.) Be prepared for the depression that may come from having to wear pads again!
Expect to bleed a lot. They did not warn me about this, but it turns out you can bleed at any time for weeks after the surgery. You may lose quite a lot of blood, so try to eat foods that will replace lost red blood cells (such as red meat). The blood seems to stop and start, which I found alarming, but which is apparently normal. At 2.5 weeks out I experienced a small volcano of blood and clots, which scared me greatly, but apparently fits under the vast umbrella of “normal.” Expect the pain to come and go as well – I thought it was all clear at day 3, and it came back at day 13. Then it lingered for weeks, although it was never severe. Don’t worry about the blood unless you are filling a pad within one hour, or the discharge is smelly, or you have a fever, or you are throwing up a lot. If any of these things happen, you likely need to call 911 or go to emergency.
When you’re laying in supplies, get a lot of soap: hygiene is extremely important while recovering from this surgery. Keep your hands and body as clean as you possibly can, and shower every day (but stay out of the tub until your doctor gives the all-clear on that.) The last thing you want is any kind of bacteria entering your body
Make sure you have loose fitting pants and undershorts. You will most likely not want to have anything tight over the lower abdomen, which is where most of the surgical activities have occurred.
Rest up, even when you are feeling better. It is very easy to overdo things, especially with laparoscopic surgery, because the traumatic changes to your body are less visible. The minute you overdo it, you will set yourself back, so it’s not worth it. Bear in mind that even if you had this less invasive surgery, you still have multiple stitches INSIDE your body. Also, people around you may expect more from you than is safe, because there are no visible scars. You need to protect yourself.
Try to follow the advice of not lifting anything heavier than a teacup for six weeks. You can tear your internal stitches if you lift something too heavy. That can be minor, but it can also be very serious, even life threatening.
If you are feeling nervous, call someone, or check online. I found the many online discussions quite reassuring, and they helped me to stay calm, rather than panic. Of course you will often be in forums where everyone is calling each other “sister” and “ladies,” but just man up and ignore that! Also, there are FTM forums about surgery where you can talk to other guys recovering from a hysterectomy. These were extremely useful to me, and helped me not to have panic attacks.
If you had a laparoscopic hysterectomy, expect to have cramps. I was told to expect them to manifest as pain in my upper body, but I never had any of that. What I did have was painful gas in the usual place (colon), which made it impossible for me to even sit for about a week. The gas took three weeks to go away completely, and in the meantime often gave me random, painful cramps. Eventually I was seated on the toilet and suddenly passed gas so ferociously that I actually levitated from the seat! The good news was that after that, the gas pains were all but gone.
If you had an abdominal hysterectomy, expect to have difficulty getting in and out of bed. Some people find that cushions, a foam wedge or sleeping in a recliner helps.
I have heard of people who felt their internal organs “sloshing around.” I did not feel that. However, it is absolutely true that organs have been removed and that your internal organs are busy re-arranging themselves. This is part of the reason why it is so vital to rest and take it easy. You do not want things flopping around and ending up where they should not be. Remember that the cavity is full of things that cannot interact with each other in a comfortable way, such as your colon and bladder and abdomen. You do not want things that should be in one of those places getting into the other place. Which brings me to the most important point of all.
Whatever you do, do not have any sex that involves inserting anything of any kind into your vagina! This can result in tearing of the stitches at the top of the vagina, infection, and even death. I read about a person (a woman) who had sex with her husband and ended up with semen in her abdomen, accompanied by horrific, life-threatening infection and dehydration.
Note: this surgery can be especially traumatic for transmen as it is a “female surgery”. There are many horror stories or men with beards being called “she” in hospital, or of transmen being put on a ward with a lot of women, all discussing their hysterectomies. I was immensely fortunate to be in a hospital that regularly dealt with transmen, and every single person was respectful and used the correct pronouns. I had a nurse who called me “he” while she was inserting a catheter into me! You don’t get much more trans sensitive than that – I mean, there was evidence of my biological femaleness staring her in the face, and still she stuck to “he.” That reminds me, I must send her chocolates!
The above post is excerpted from my book, How I Changed my Gender from Female to Male. You can look inside this book and see the table of contents by clicking on the Amazon link below.
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In my case I had the Laparoscophic. I always thought it didn’t matter until after the surgery. They found endrometerial cancer and scheduled me for the surgery. My doctor didn’t know I was FTM but she was fantastic as a surgeon and when I expressed my relief and joy at getting rid of it because I never wanted it, she took that all in stride.
The surgery itself was long. She found a massive amount of scar tissue inside me that shouldn’t have been there. My best guess is my lupus looked at the ovaries and the uterus as invaders that shouldn’t be there and attacked them. Plus symptoms I had my entire life since I started puberty vanished. Again, I think it was the Lupus attacking that caused them. 5 hours of surgery later, my discharge the same day became overnight to make sure I was okay. I had NO pain from the surgery at all. No bleeding either. I could have ate a horse but otherwise no other side effect. I did end up with a bladder infection. During recovery, I had NO pain from it. Except for the stitches [and now the scars], I couldn’t tell I had surgery. No discharge. No bleeding. A bit of dryness. That’s it. I did obey the weight lifting limits because they scared the daylights out of me with the idea if I didn’t, I could have lifetime weight lifting limits. I’m a weightlifter/bodybuilder. 4 months in, I was told I was fully healed and NO weight lifting restrictions. Physically, I feel better than I ever had since I was 11 and my periods started. The Lupus changed because it isn’t fighting female hormones put out by the scar tissue and I have so much energy. And most surprising, I feel more me. I didn’t realize I always felt as if I was carrying something foreign inside me until it was gone. I really want to find all the GYNs I ever went to [esp with the amount of scar tissue in me] and kick them someplace hard.
Overall? One fantastic surgeon. My only fear is that the cancer will come back even though I’m clear at the moment.
My auto correct, autocorrected. It should have read: The Lupus changed because it isn’t fighting female hormones put out by the ovaries and causing scar tissue. I have so much energy.
Thomas Underwood says
What a wonderful story Joe, I am so happy for you. I hope and pray your cancer never comes back. I actually had my hysterectomy to prevent the possibility as I am a bit high risk due to age and family history. But like you, I was amazed at how much better I feel just KNOWING that those misfitting parts are no longer inside or me. Good luck!