If you had laparoscopic surgery, you will go home from the hospital the same day or the very next day. Abdominal surgery requires you to spend 1-2 nights in the hospital.
After surgery, your doctor will monitor you for any signs of infection, such as a fever or unusual redness and drainage from your incision(s). You may be given pain reliever in a pump that you control, giving yourself doses through an intravenous (IV) line as needed. As you recover, you also will take some pain medications by mouth, immediately and for a few weeks after your surgery.
The same day or the very next day, your doctor or nurse will have you get up and walk around. Although walking may be painful at first, it can help prevent the formation of blood clots in the legs, strengthen the abdominal muscles, and get your digestive system working again.
Both the surgery itself and the pain medications can slow down your intestines, which play a key role in digesting your food and removing waste from the body. At first, you may not be allowed to take any food or drink by mouth, instead taking your nutrients through an intravenous (IV) line. After that, you’ll probably be restricted to a diet of fluids or soft foods until your doctor is sure that your intestines are working normally again.
At-home recovery after prophylactic ovary removal
Once you’re home from the hospital, you will need to limit physical activities such as driving, exercise, and heavy lifting for 2-6 weeks, depending on the type of surgery. For laparoscopic surgery, it may be 3 or more weeks before you have all your energy back and for abdominal surgery, about 4-6 weeks. As much as possible, try to delegate your responsibilities at work and at home to coworkers, family, and friends. This is especially important if you care for young children or an ill parent or spouse, or you have a job that requires you to be physically active.
In addition to feeling tired, you may experience some side effects:
- Pain: You may feel pain at the site of the incision(s) after laparoscopic or abdominal surgery. The inflation of your pelvis and abdomen for laparoscopic surgery can cause some pain that may radiate as far as your shoulder. Your doctor will likely tell you to take pain medication during the first week or two after surgery.
- Changes in your digestive system: You may find that you have a smaller-than-usual appetite in the days after surgery. Some women find it helpful to eat more frequent, smaller meals instead of 3 large meals. You may have less frequent bowel movements until your gastrointestinal system gets back to normal. Your doctor may recommend a stool softener.
- Surgical menopause: Within days or even hours of surgery, you will begin to experience side effects related to the loss of estrogen. Unlike natural menopause, which happens gradually, surgical menopause causes a sudden drop in your body’s estrogen level. These effects are likely to be more intense if you had not yet started the process of natural menopause. Side effects can include hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, and vaginal dryness and irritation. You can learn about how to ease these side effects in the Menopause section.
Call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms, which could be a sign of infection:
- a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. For at least a couple of weeks, you should take your temperature in the morning and evening.
- increase in swelling or redness at your incision(s)
- any blood or fluid draining from your incision(s)
- pain not relieved by your pain medicine
- vaginal discharge with itching or a bad-smelling odor
- nausea or vomiting
- any difficulty with urinating, such as pain, burning, urinating often, or being unable to reach the bathroom in time
In the months after prophylactic ovary removal
Your surgeon will see you for an office visit at about 2 weeks and again at about 4-6 weeks after surgery. The surgeon will check to make sure your incision(s) is healing properly.
For some women, the symptoms of surgical menopause can continue for many months. You might plan on seeing your regular doctor or gynecologist more frequently during the first year after surgery, or for as long as it takes your body to adjust.
Some women choose to take short-term hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for relief from hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sexual side effects. Although HRT has been found to increase breast cancer risk, research also has shown that short-term HRT is safe for high-risk women who undergo ovary removal. In other words, if you take HRT to help with the symptoms of surgical menopause, this does not “wipe out” the reduction in breast cancer risk that comes from having the ovaries removed. The general recommendation is to use the lowest dose needed for the shortest time possible.
Still, individual doctors may have different opinions about whether or not you should take HRT after ovary removal. You can work with your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits and determine what is right for you.
After surgery is a good time to ask your doctor about making plans for maintaining your health over the long term. If you had your ovaries removed before natural menopause, you are at increased risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and possibly cardiovascular disease. Ask your doctor what tests you should have to evaluate your bone and heart health. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to lower your risk.