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Tips for Recovering From Abdominal Surgery

Take It Slow At First, And Your Recovery Will Go More Smoothly


Updated October 10, 2013

Surgery for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is difficult on both your body and your life. You can lessen the impact and improve your recovery from surgery by making good preparations. There's much that you can do to prepare yourself, your home, your finances, and your employer for the time you'll need to take to recover.

1. Contact Your Insurance Carrier

Health Insurance Approved Stamp
Image © Stuart Miles
Some insurance companies require that they be informed before you are hospitalized. This is extremely important, as they may deny benefits if you don't call them prior to the surgery.

2. Get It In Writing

Get It In Writing
Image © Feelart
Give notice at work as soon as your surgery date is scheduled. You may be eligible for short-term disability if you will need an extended recovery period. Remember that you will need a note from your doctor explaining that you will be having surgery (no one needs to know why -- it's none of their business) and how long you are likely to be absent. Additionally, when you return to work, you will need a release from your doctor, stating that you are well enough for work. Don't forget to ask for these, and remember to keep a copy for yourself.

3. Prepare For Your Return Before You Leave For The Hospital

Broom And Dustpan
image © Grant Cochrane
Your house needs to be ready for your return before you even leave for surgery. Just some of the things you might to do are:
  • Stock your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry with soft, low-residue foods.
  • Have comfortable clothing, such as robes, pants with elastic waists, and t-shirts, to wear home from the hospital and during recovery.
  • Finish all the laundry and heavy cleaning, and have the house in good order.
  • Arrange furniture and other items so that trips up and down stairs will be minimized.
  • Make sure your bills are paid up-to-date, or set up automatic payments.

4. Get Out Of Bed

Photo © graur codrin
Yes, it's likely to hurt, but don't fight the nurses when they want to get you out of bed in the days following your surgery. You will recover faster, and get released sooner, if you get up and start moving around. Additionally, this will help get your bowels moving again, and once that happens you may be able to graduate from liquid diet and get some solid food.

5. Have A Hobby

Paint Pallet
Photo © luigi diamanti
You will be tired, sore, and have a short attention span due to painkillers. Plan to spend time in the house reading, knitting, watching movies or TV, doing crossword puzzles or word games, putting together puzzles, or doing some other quiet hobby. If you get bored easily at home, finding some hobbies that you can relax with is very important. Your mental health during recovery is critical, and being bored or feeling "cooped-up" won't help.

6. Don't Lift Anything Heavy...

Lifting Weights
Image © zirconicusso
Your muscles need time to heal. Do not lift things heavier than recommended by your doctor (typically this is about 5 lbs), including, but not limited to, children, cats, dogs, grocery bags, and laundry baskets. Your continued health and complete recovery is too important to risk by going against doctor's orders. Vacuuming is difficult on the abdominal muscles, don't do it until the surgeon says your ready.

7. ...But Get Some Light Exercise

Walking In The Forest
Image © zirconicusso
Your recovery will go in stages. At first, walking will be tough enough. Don't wear yourself out, but walk as much as you are able. When the surgeon releases you to do more, start back into your exercise program slowly. It will be some months before you will be back to your regular activities.

8. Ask Before You Get Intimate

Flower Heart
Photo © Jazgorn
Don't be afraid to discuss with your surgeon about when you will be well enough to have sex -- it's a very important question. This is a personal decision that also needs to be discussed with your partner, and it will depend on your comfort level. You will know when you are ready.

9. Have Extra Pillows On Hand

Photo © Phiseksit
A pillow between the knees, and another held against the stomach helps with discomfort during sleeping after surgery. A body pillow is also a good choice to lean against while in bed. Additionally, put one or two pillows on any chair you are sitting in for extra comfort.

10. Ask For Help

Support Advice And Help Dice
Photo © Stuart Miles
Having someone around to prepare meals and keep up with household chores will be helpful for your physical recovery, and give you peace of mind. If you don't have a friend or relative available, check with the hospital about volunteers. They may have a staff of volunteers (or be able to direct you to a volunteer group) who can deliver your medications and groceries, or just come by for a short visit.
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  5. Tips For Recovery from Abdominal Surgery

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