Before this year, a diagnosis of endometriosis wasn’t something I had thought about for even one second. However, due to multiple ectopic pregnancies and increasing menstrual pain, my reproductive endocrinologist (RE) developed a strong suspicion for endometriosis.
Well, the thing with endometriosis is that you can only confirm it’s there by going inside and finding evidence. So, as I briefly touched on in my post on coping with being emotionally drained and discouraged, I had an endometriosis surgery (otherwise known as a LAPAROSCOPY) last month.
Before I went into surgery, I googled everything I could find about this surgery.
I don’t know anyone who has been through this process and wanted to read someone’s personal experience. I didn’t find anything that went as in depth as I wanted so now that I’ve gone through the actual procedure, I’m bringing you a guide to tell you what you can expect from this surgery.
What Is A Laparoscopy (For Endometriosis)?
A laparoscopy is a major surgery that is done to diagnose and treat endometriosis. While under general anesthesia, your surgery team will pump CO2 gas into the abdomen to create space and make the organs easier to visualize. Then, the surgeon makes 2-3 cuts on your stomach so they can slip in a laparoscope (which they use to see) as well as other surgical instruments.
In my case, my surgeon/RE made three incisions: one inside my belly button and a one-inch incision on each side of my lower stomach.
The plan was for her to identify and remove any endometriosis lesions, adhesions and scars she could find. She also removed a few cysts and polyps that were in my uterus while she was in there (no worries, we had agreed on all of this ahead of time).
If you’re really curious to see exactly what they’ll be doing, you can watch this video of an actual laparoscopy done for endometriosis.
It is most often an outpatient procedure, meaning that you probably won’t need to stay at the hospital overnight and can go home when it is finished. In some cases, this can change if there are complications.
How To Prepare For Laparoscopy
In preparation for surgery, I was given the following directions:
- No food, fluids, medications or vitamins for at least 8 hours before the procedure (just follow the exact directions given by your surgical team)
- Shower with soap but don’t use any lotion
- Brush your teeth before you arrive
- Wear loose clothing that is not restrictive at the waist (I wore very loose sweatpants and a T-shirt but you can also consider a loose, casual dress to avoid any waistband action at all)
- No jewelry (I forgot that this includes my wedding ring but luckily my husband was there for me to give it to. Remember to leave your ring at home!)
- No nail polish or acrylic nails
- Check in about 2 hours before surgery time
- Arrange for someone to drive you there and drive you back
Some other things you can consider:
- Most people leave on the same day but if your surgery or recovery is a bit more complicated, you may have to stay overnight. Because of this, you may want to pack a ‘just in case’ overnight bag with pads, socks and extra underwear.
After Check In & Before The Endometriosis Surgery
After checking in, I had to take a urine pregnancy test (to make sure they wouldn’t be disrupting a viable pregnancy with the surgery). Then, I was assigned a nurse who gave me a hospital gown to change into. She also checked my vitals and had me sign some forms.
After that, someone from lab came in to draw blood and start the IV access, which was how I received fluids, pain medication and anesthesia during and after surgery.
The nurse made sure I was VERY comfortable; she tucked me into a bunch of warm blankets and let me control the heat. I like being warm so it was honestly the best; I felt like a warm burrito mmm!
She also gave me leg cuffs to wear in order to maintain good circulation during surgery and prevent blood clots.
The anesthesiologist and surgeon came by to say hello and answer any questions I had about the procedure.
Around the scheduled time, the nurse added some relaxation medication to my IV and I started getting really tired. She (and a few others?) started wheeling me into the operating room (OR). The double doors into the OR are the last thing I remember; by the time I was wheeled through them, I was out.
Waking Up From The Laparoscopy
What To Expect From: Anesthesia
For some reason, my biggest fear about having endometriosis surgery was the anesthesia. I was paranoid that I would wake up during surgery and not be able to move and let them know that I’m awake.
That’s completely irrational.
I recall absolutely nothing about the surgery except waking up and asking for my husband. Lol I even tweeted:
A vote for anesthesia as the best thing to happen to modern medicine FOR SURE.
You like leave this earth, they fiddle around INSIDE your body, and then you return to the earth. It’s crazy!— Deze (@byDeze) March 2, 2019
It took me several hours to completely shake off the anesthesia after I first woke up. I felt really groggy and disoriented and kept rambling “where’s my husband? babe! where are you?”
I also had a tingly, restless feeling in my legs and kept wiggling them to get rid of it. It kind of felt like when your legs fall asleep.
I fell in and out of sleep and ultimately woke up in my recovery room feeling very well rested.
What To Expect From: Hospital Discharge
I was under the impression that I would be discharged once I was awake and stable. That was not the case.
The funniest thing (to me) about the discharge process was that I had to prove that I could urinate before they would discharge me.
(They want to make sure that your bladder is awake and hasn’t been damaged by the whole process).
Well, let’s just say my bladder was much sleepier than me because it felt like it took forever! I walked, drank countless cups of iced Gatorade and had a bladder scan just to make sure everything was okay. They even tried placing peppermint essential oils in my room, because it helps some people urinate. Yeah- didn’t work for me.
Finally, after 4-5 trips to the restroom, I tinkled.
THEN the discharge process began. We received discharge paperwork, then I gathered my things and hubby took me home.
- Avoid showering or taking baths for 2 days
- No sex for 1-2 weeks
- Avoid lifting heavy items for 1-2 weeks (like my nurse said, this includes baskets of laundry and vacuums *you’re welcome*)
- Keep your incisions dry and clean
- Make a post-op appointment to see your doctor in 4 weeks
How Long Do You Need Off Work For A Laparoscopy?
My doctor recommended 1-2 weeks before returning back to regular work. This will vary from woman to woman: some will feel ready to go after a few days while some may need a longer period of time.
In my personal experience, I went back to work after 3 full days off.
Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily recommend that you do the same!
My laparoscopy took place on a Friday morning and I had the entire weekend off to heal. I also took the following Monday off but after that, I just couldn’t deal with the boredom, especially since I was no longer in any severe pain.
My job is basically a desk job so I knew I wouldn’t be putting a lot of strain on my body. This certainly won’t be the case for everyone and if I had a physically demanding job, I would not have gone back so soon.
It’s important to listen to your body!
What Are The Side Effects Of Endometriosis Surgery
Gas pain was easily the most agonizing part of my laparoscopy recovery. As described above, they start the surgery by pumping in a bunch of gas that helps them visualize the internal organs. Well, that gas doesn’t just magically disappear once they are done with the procedure. It stays trapped in your body and dissipates slowly over time.
When I tell you that mess was painful?? Oh my goodness!
My first experience with it was when I was lying in the recovery room at the hospital. When I started to feel pain in my chest and shoulder, I thought something was wrong with my heart or that I had developed a clot so I rung the nurse bell. When I described how I felt, the nurse explained that I was experiencing gas pain.
I felt that gas pain in my stomach, chest, shoulder and neck for about one week and it was crazy uncomfortable. Walking around to shift the gas out helped a bit.
The number one question on most people’s mind is probably “how painful is laparoscopy for endometriosis?“
Well, I would say that besides the gas pain, all the other pain that I experienced was less than a 5, on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most pain).
The day after surgery, I took 2 half doses of narcotic pain medication and took Tylenol an additional time. That was all the pain medication I needed. By the third day, I wasn’t feeling any more pain (besides gas pain).
Granted, this will vary from person to person because we all heal differently and have different levels of pain tolerance.
SORE & SWOLLEN INCISION SITES
Naturally, it will take time before your incisions completely close and heal. It will likely take 2-6 weeks for the stitches to dissolve. Before that time, you may notice that the incision areas are sore and tender (especially when you bend over). Sometimes, they even felt itchy.
Be gentle with them and keep them covered and dry. If you notice that they look unusual or are oozing, call your doctor ASAP.
You may also notice:
- Nausea: I didn’t experience this but many do
- Achy & Sore Throat: from the tube they put in your trachea to keep your airway open
- Stomach Bloating: lasted for weeks
- Bleeding: don’t forget to buy pads!
- Extreme Tiredness: your body just went through a traumatic experience and needs time to recover. The anesthesia and pain medications will also contribute to the fatigue.
- General Aches & Pains: same as above. Your body needs time to recover
- Changes in Your Bowel Movement
What Medications Do You Need For Recovery?
- Pain Medication – which may include narcotics, Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Ibuprofen (Motrin)
- Stool Softener – like Docusate
You need it because narcotic pain medication promotes constipation. In addition, the surgery itself can change your bowel movements (at least temporarily). For me, it went softer not harder (TMI I know).
- Anti-Emetic – to prevent nausea and vomiting from the procedure and/or the pain medication. I received a prescription for ondansetron but didn’t end up using it.
- Gas-X – to get rid of the gas pain
BONUS TIPS On Recovering From Endometriosis Surgery
tip #1: You will be super hungry after surgery (since you fasted) but don’t eat too quickly or too heavy after surgery. Try to start off with something hydrating and/or light like soup, fruits or toast.
I say this because the anesthesia and surgery can make you nauseous and throw up. Also, you may feel bloated so eating a lot of food quickly may make you feel more uncomfortable.
tip #2: To recover more quickly, get up and move around.
LIFE AFTER ENDOMETRIOSIS SURGERY
Post-Op Follow Up
I saw my RE exactly four weeks after the surgery. She inspected my stitches and made sure they were healing well. We also had a discussion about my long term treatment plan and that was that.
First Period After The Surgery
My first period came 12 days after my procedure.
It didn’t last any longer than a normal period but it seemed a bit heavier. It was honestly kind of hard to tell.
Thankfully, I experienced less pain compared to my periods before the endometriosis surgery so I guess it worked! My second period was even better.
The Cost Of Endometriosis Surgery
According to my research, most health insurances cover laparoscopy.
The folks at costhelper report that laparoscopy for endometriosis usually costs somewhere between $1,700 and $5,000- depending on if the procedure is for diagnosis alone or for treatment as well.
My health insurance covered about 85% of my costs but even with that, I still paid a bit over $2000 all together (amt edited- more bills came in).
Keep in mind that your bills may come separately.
I got separate bills for: the anesthesiologist, the surgeon, the hospital, medications and for radiology.
That is my complete guide on what to expect from endometriosis surgery / laparoscopy. If you currently have a laparoscopy scheduled, I wish you the best of luck and hope the information above has helped you feel more prepared.
If you have any questions, please comment below (or e-mail me) and I will be more than glad to answer them!