It’s now been three weeks since my laparoscopy and hysteroscopy surgery, and after successfully washing my hair, venturing out the house and going a whole five hours without saying “ouch” every time I laugh or sneeze I’m pretty sure this officially makes me a recovery expert.
If you’re reading this blog you’re probably either waiting for, looking into the route of having, or have recently had a laparoscopy, and if so, I’m hoping this post will help you feel a little bit more at ease, or at least more prepared.
If you don’t fall under one of the above categories and are wondering what the hell a laparoscopy is, to quote the NHS website, it is a “type of surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.” It is a form of keyhole surgery that usually also involves pumping your tummy with air to give the surgeons more space to do their thing in there. A hysteroscopy is the bit that often comes before the laparoscopy and involves a very skinny, snazzy telescope that they pop in first to get a good ol’ look around. These procedures are usually performed to look for things like endometriosis, adhesions on the womb and other bits and bobs in that area.
For me, a laparoscopy had been on the cards for a couple of years; along with word “endometriosis” which had been handed to me quite a few times by different doctors. Over this time I have been given so much conflicting advice including “go get pregnant as that will solve it”, “it’s just IBS” or the classic “it’s probably all in your head”. My symptoms were regular bleeding, more painful bloating but more so, a pain that felt very different to IBS – an often intense burning or stabbing sensation along with a period pain type feeling lower down than I feel with IBS, that was more prominent on my right side. After a period of suffering with this quite badly, and a night that involved calling 111, my GP told me she thought that a laparoscopy was definitely the next best step to diagnosing the issue and I was lucky enough referred to a private hospital with a two month waiting list.
So from personal experience I’ve shared some of my top-tips, must have’s and things to note, however please note I am not a medical professional and you should always run through any questions or concerns ahead of your surgery with a nurse or the surgeon themselves.
1. Pre-op assessment
Around two weeks before your operation date, you’ll get invited to a pre-operative appointment. This will usually be with a nurse who will run through your medical history, take your bloods (I also had to go back a few days before the op) and answer any questions you may have. After speaking to somebody else who had had this procedure I followed their advice and got a list of questions together to help me feel more prepared. This isn’t essential, but it may help knowing ahead of time as you’ll probably still be a bit out of it when you leave the hospital. These questions will range person to person but to give you an idea, this is what I asked:
2. Hospital bag
Most laparoscopy patients will just be admitted as a day-case, meaning if you’re in in the morning, you should be out in time for dinner. I was admitted at 7.30am, had my surgery at 11.20am and was back home by 4.30pm once I had passed the pee and eat test. However, it’s still important you pack lots of goodies to make you as comfortable as possible during your stay, however short. This is what I packed in my hospital bag:
Looking back, this is the most important tip I can give you. I am so so bad at this and I so wish I just embraced it. After realising that I could actually do less than I had pre-empted, I did become very aware of the importance of resting my body, however I didn’t think about resting my mind. I started working from home within three days and kept myself so busy that a few weeks later I absolutely crashed. Having any operation is an emotional experience and can be mentally draining, so give yourself that time to just chill out and properly recover, otherwise it’s likely it will hit you later like it did me.
2. Move (but not too much)
I found that one of the worst parts of post-laparoscopy is not the wounds themselves, but the pain from the gas that comes from the air they pump in during surgery. This air then travels around your body, and usually finds a nice little (unwelcome) home in your shoulders. The pain from this can feel quite sharp and uncomfortable, but I found the best thing you can do for it is to move around so it disperses. When I heard about this prior to my op I imagined getting my steps up with walks around the block, however this wasn’t to be as even getting off the sofa was a bit of an effort. Just little laps around your living room works well, or I found kneeling on a pillow and doing a weird little hip/shoulder/bum shimmy whilst watching telly really helped it ease off.
Obviously I was going to say this! I totally used this surgery as an excuse for a few new sets of PJs, joggers and leggings. Make sure you have plenty of clothes that are super loose on your tummy as not only will it be sore from the keyhole, but will also be tender and bloated from the gas pumped in.
4. Anti-boredom strategy
If you’re like me, and incapable of doing nothing then in order make your resting time as bearable as possible, make sure you prepare for the chill. In the weeks leading up, start compiling a list of TV shows, films, books and podcasts to gorge on. I personally worked my way through a mad sesh of all three series’ of Netflix’s Atypical in the first three days, then ordered Bryony Gordon’s Madgirl, The Tatooist of Auschwitz whilst binging on Queer Eye until I felt comfortable enough to work with my laptop on my lap with a pillow sandwiched between.
5. Pain relief
Don’t be afraid to take painkillers if needed. I didn’t bother asking the nurse about pain relief before I left the hospital as I genuinely felt so good that I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about… Until I got home and realised I was just off my face on morphine, and actually, it was pretty bloody uncomfortable. After calling the hospital Ross went and grabbed me some codeine and paracetamol hybrid that I used for the first three days, then moved onto just paracetamol when needed (usually during bed time).
6. Poo, probiotics and kiwis
As un-glam as talking about poo is, we need to go there. After your lap, even peeing can be pretty uncomfortable due to your tummy muscles, so pooing is even less fun. Morphine and other pain killers don’t help the situation and can actually make you pretty constipated. I’ve been using Symprove (am currently in a paid partnership with them but cannot recommend enough) for the past few months and I think this definitely helped me as I had way less trouble than I’ve had after previous surgeries. Also kiwi fruits are amazing for constipation, and unlike prunes are also low in FODMAPs.
7. Cheesy nachos and chocolate
Not together, but I found both essential for healing.
Overall, having a laparoscopy isn’t the most fun way to pass a couple of weeks, however finally having some answers to your pain and symptoms is one of the best feelings in the world. I have known something wasn’t right for over two years , so it just such a relief. During the op the surgeon found a large number of adhesions on my womb, along with a film (it looked like clingfilm from the pictures he shoved in my face) that had formed over my bowel and womb and attached them, which apparently would have been a big cause of the pain and bloating. *The technical diagnosis: In the right iliac fossa there were extensive adhesions between omentum and bowel and the anterior lateral abdominal side wall extending superiorly up towards the liver. I have dissected these free with a good effect being achieved.
I’m so relieved that nothing more serious or long-term was found, and that I actually got some answers. I’m hoping that once I’ve fully recovered I’ll feel quite a dramatic difference and will definitely be reporting back. I think though, the most importnat thing I can share from this is to keep pushing when you know something isn’t right. We know our bodies, and we deserve to know what’s going on inside them, so please don’t give up.
Sending so much love to you wherever you are on this journey, and if you’re having/have had the op then I hope you have a speedy recovery, and hopefully sharing my experience has helped. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment box below, or check out my IGTV for the Q&A video I have filmed.
Lots of love, Lottie x