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6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Recovery After Laparoscopy

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Recovery After Laparoscopy

uterus depicted in flowers against a pink and yellow background

I had to wait 14 years to have my first laparoscopy and it was a battle, to say the least. I found that I focused so intensely on getting a proper endometriosis diagnosis that I didn’t stop to think about what it would be like to actually go through the process of having the surgery itself. So once the plan was in motion, I was a basket case. 

Suddenly hundreds of thoughts started swirling around in my mind. This would be my first surgery, ever. I was terrified.

Needles are not my favorite, I can get anxious at a spa, and I can be a bit of a control freak. So the idea of someone cutting into me, and cutting things out of me while I’m unconscious, is about as close to Hell as I’m willing to get. (General anesthesia scares TF out of me, tbh.)

When I say “control freak,” I mean it. I’m that person who researches things until I’m an absolute know-it-all about the subject, and I definitely over-plan whenever we go on a trip. I plan down to the very last second to ensure we’re getting every single ounce of enjoyment that we can before we have to turn around and go back home. (I even mapped out Central Park and the things we wanted to see within it the first time my husband and I visited New York City).

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If we have to buy something that’s on the expensive side, I’m all over the reviews. And when there’s a new experience to be had, I talk to everyone I know who has done it first, so I’m filled in on all the things that could happen so I can prepare accordingly. But this situation was different. This time, I was afraid that if I knew too much about the procedure and the aftermath, I would chicken out. So instead, I let my imagination run wild. I annoyed my closest friends and family with my fears, irrational and otherwise.

After the surgery, I was ravenous for information. What’s recovery like after a diagnostic laparoscopy? What’s considered normal?

I typed every question I could think of into that bright, glowing search bar. And weirdly enough, there was almost nothing that didn’t sound like it came from a medical textbook. In my drugged-up haze words like “anesthesiologist,” “abdominal wall,” “lesions,” or even “open surgery” made very little sense to me. To save you the trouble of having a frantic search of your own (or from breaking down in the recovery room) here is a list of things I wish I had known about recovery after laparoscopy. The good, the annoying, and downright unpleasant.

1. Your ribs are going to hurt.

I had been forewarned that carbon dioxide gas would be pumped into my abdomen through a tube that would be inserted in the incision so that the surgeon could see what he was doing. (I was informed that a laparoscope would be inserted through said tube.) I also knew that I would need to sip on carbonated drinks to help get rid of the extra air and that I would basically be Shrek-level rude for a couple of days after the surgery. But no one warned me that my ribs were going to hurt so badly. I felt as though I had a stitch in my side from running. It was almost like my ribs had been shoved up into my clavicle. (The swelling…fuck the swelling.)

2. You’re going to be sleeping on your back for a while.

I am a side sleeper. More specifically, a curled-into-a-tiny-ball side sleeper. So sleeping in any other position is a challenge. I was told that the first couple of nights I would need to sleep on my back with a pillow placed under my knees, and it was advice that I took to heart… After I attempted to lay on my side immediately post-laparoscopy.

Want a little advice? Don’t do what I did. It will feel like your insides are trying to come out through your incisions, and you’ll need to coat yourself in ice packs for the rest of the day.

3. Cabin fever is a bitch.

I like going to work, seeing friends, and exploring. I definitely have lazy days, and nights where binge-watching Netflix and Hulu are the only things on my agenda, too, but my normal activity pre-invasive surgery was: always doing something, all the time. So, after two full days and nights of laying around, swallowing down pain medication, having someone else have to help me up, and having someone hang out outside my bathroom door every time I tried to pee, I was a wreck. Restless, bored, and annoyed (and annoying, let’s be honest). If you are able, walk around in the yard. Get a bit of sun. Anything to give you back some semblance of autonomy. If you don’t, you’ll end up on extra couch rest after a too-long Target trip.

4. You will be able to feel your insides moving.

Almost all of my girlfriends have children. Eventually, the ooh- and ah-talk and the “Aren’t they so amazing?” will turn to the nitty-gritty reality of what their bodies went through. So I’d heard about the weirdness that comes with the uterus shrinking back to its original size, and the feeling of all your organs going back into the areas they inhabited before the new kid in town squished and poked everything out of place. I was not warned, however, that I would also be experiencing this “miracle” after my surgery, too. It’s uncomfortable and weird, but at least I got to sleep more after my procedure, unlike my girlfriends.

5. The first time you have sex will be nerve-wracking.

With everything moving around, and a ligament removed, I was nervous to be intimate again. I had been through the wringer. Even so, once I was cleared by the doctor, I was willing. I didn’t anticipate being quite so insecure about my scars, but I was. I left my shirt on, and every touch from my husband was met with tense apprehension. We didn’t set the world on fire that first time or the second, which somehow hurt worse than the first.

sex with endo

And, don’t worry: If you cry, you’re in good company. If you feel weird, you’re still doing better than I did. But, in my case, three weeks after surgery, the third time was the charm. Ladies, don’t put pressure on yourself or your partner. It’ll happen. Just give it time.

6. Your first post-op period will hurt like a mother.

This is not fair. This is one of those things that seems like the world’s cruelest joke until you start laughing maniacally and just go with it. Oh, is that just me? Great.

My period started two weeks after my surgery. I was several days late, which made sense to me; what didn’t make sense, however, was the intense pain I was in. (The only reason I had a laparoscopy was to get rid of the pain.) It radiated down my legs and into my knees and feet. I felt as though tiny little pins were being pushed into my ovaries through my skin. I had a cramp so bad at work it brought tears to my eyes. But according to my doctor, post-laparoscopy pain is normal. It’s just the body’s way of adjusting to everything that was done to it.

It can last for two to three months after surgery, (which sucks), but I feel like I have so much to look forward to after my recovery, I don’t even mind.

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