Dealing with bladder leaks when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or exercise can bring a woman to her breaking point. While stress urinary incontinence, also called SUI, is not uncommon in women, it is also not a normal part of the aging process. Women who have tried it all, from Kegels to pessaries (like Uresta), may turn to more drastic measures to solve the leakage struggle—such as injections or surgery.
The struggle is real. If you’re considering going under the knife, or have recently undergone pelvic surgery to treat SUI, you’ll need to prepare for the recovery process. My Virtual Physician wants to help make sure your recovery from surgery is as smooth as possible so that you can return to enjoying life to its fullest once again. Here, we’ll cover tips for a successful surgical recovery after pelvic procedures.
You may or may not require hospitalization after bladder surgery. Your doctor and surgeon will determine what your individual needs are. Injections do not require hospitalization unless there are complications. Sometimes a urethral sling can be completed as an outpatient procedure. If you’re using your own tissues for the sling, though, you’ll likely need to stay in the hospital for recovery for about a week.
Some doctors leave a catheter in place after pelvic surgery while patients recover to ensure that the bladder can empty properly while the patient heals. If you’ve been sent home with a catheter, it can usually be removed by your doctor around one week post-surgery.
If you do not have a catheter, or if you just had it removed, you may have some anxiety about urinating for the first time after surgery. Try to relax and take your time. The first time peeing may be slightly painful or come with a minor burning sensation, but each time afterward will improve until you are peeing normally again. It is normal to experience a slower flow than before surgery.
Along the same lines, you’ll want to be sure you’re taking a stool softener after undergoing pelvic surgery. That’s because you do not want to strain your pelvic muscles to push bowel movements. You may need to continue taking stool softeners for several weeks, depending on your body and your dietary habits.
Your doctor may prescribe some pain medication to help ease discomfort while your body heals. Once you are fully healed, you should no longer experience ongoing pain.
Depending on the type of pelvic procedure you have done, your healing time will vary. Injection therapy has little to no healing time, while pelvic reconstruction surgeries such as slings and bladder neck suspension have a longer recovery period.
Healing time is also dependent upon which method your surgery was completed. When having the procedure completed laparoscopically or vaginally, you’ll recover much faster when compared to those who require surgical incisions.
The pelvic organs can take quite a while to heal after surgery. That’s why it’s critical to restrict your physical activity during your extended recovery period. For about three months directly after surgery, you should drastically reduce physical activity. From there, take it easy for six months, and keep in mind that it can take up to a couple of years for your body to be completely healed after surgery.
Avoid the following during the weeks after surgery:
While you recover, it’s normal to have some vaginal bleeding for up to a little over a month. But look out for these signs of problems or infections and contact your doctor right away if you experience:
After your pelvic surgery, you’ll see your surgeon again about one to three months later, giving your body time to heal. Be sure to write down any questions until this time. My Virtual Physician wishes you a speedy recovery, and if you have any questions about whether or not you are a good candidate for pelvic reconstructive surgery to treat your SUI, reach out to us to speak with our team of board-certified physicians.
Your post-surgical appointment is not the end of your recovery. You’ll need to continue to rest and take it easy for up to two years after surgery. In addition, you can incorporate other recovery strategies to keep your pelvic organs where they should be, such as Kegels and proper lifting techniques.
Whether you’re weighing your options or you’ve already decided that pelvic surgery is the route to go to treat your stress urinary incontinence, My Virtual Physician is here to help. We offer post-surgical follow-ups and initial surgical consultations to discuss the risks and benefits of gynecological surgery. We have also partnered with Uresta, a different type of pessary, to help women take control over their SUI.