Prism Blog, Self Care for Trans Health, Surgical Recovery & Scars

10 Tips to Help You Better Prepare for Surgery

There’s nothing worse than getting home from surgery and realizing you don’t have your prescribed painkillers or pre-prepared food that’s easy on the stomach. There are many things you can do in advance of your surgery to help yourself have an easier recovery afterwards. Here are some simple tasks to help you prepare.

  1. Pick up your prescriptions before surgery and take them with you to the hospital in case you need them on the way home. Bring some Dramamine natural (extra strength ginger) or surgeon prescribed anti-nausea med, water bottle, and an easy-on-the-stomach snack like crackers or applesauce to the hospital too. If you’re staying in the hospital, pack earplugs and an eyemask.
  2. Get a haircut that’s easy to maintain. Get your eyelashes tinted if that’s your thing and you won’t be able to easily put on makeup for a week or two (ex. breast augmentation or top surgery). Make sure all of your toiletries, easy to prepare food, medications, and other essentials are within easy reach for the range of motion you’ll have after surgery.
  3. Assign someone or multiple people to take you to surgery, stay in the hospital during surgery in case they have to speak with the surgeon, be there when you wake up, (visit you daily if you’re there for an extended stay), take you home, and stay with you for at least 24 hours after arriving home. Have a backup person in case your caregiver falls through, even if that person is your partner. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for breakups to happen around surgery time. If you are traveling for surgery check out recovery centers in the area, like Trans Heartline in the Bay Area.
  4. Use a google calendar or care calendar like lotsahelpinghands to make a plan for friends to bring you meals, check on you, clean your house, walk your dogs, and help you with any personal hygiene tasks you can’t perform yourself. If you are traveling for surgery you can have friends sign up to order you meal delivery from apps like doordash or magickitchen. Extend your care calendar one week longer than you think you’ll need it. It’s easier to cancel than try to organize more help while you’re recovering. Have some canned soups and freezer meals on hand too just in case you find yourself stuck waiting a few hours for your next delivery.
  5. For gender affirming surgeries, picture what you’ll look like afterwards and feel how that feels. Ask your surgeon for their outcome statistics and for photos of their patients pre and post surgery. Talk to multiple surgeons about their techniques if you can. I see patients who do this be much more satisfied with their results, rather than wishing they’d gone with a different technique or a different surgery altogether.
  6. Get your exercise in since you won’t be able to be as active for a while. Use a foam roller daily the week before surgery to work out any tight muscles. Do core work, work on your posture, stretch everything out since you won’t be able to move much for a while. Strengthen your pelvic floor exercises before bottom surgery (imagine picking up a marble or closing a drawstring purse with your perineum–and let it go–to strengthen and relax your pelvic floor); work with a pelvic physical therapist if you have any preexisting pain or urination issues.
  7. Avoid large amounts of salt 7+ days before surgery to reduce post-surgical swelling. Avoid caffeine 48-72 hours before surgery. Avoid smoking 6+ weeks before surgery (6 months minimum if grafts are involved), including no nicotine of any kind 1 month before and no marijuana 2-3 weeks before to promote healing. Avoid alcohol 1+ week before surgery. Avoid sugar 1+ week before as it depletes the immune system and prevents healing.
  8. Get a wedge pillow or other support pillows, heating pad, icepack, plenty of comfy loose clothes. Get a Tushy travel bidet to reduce wiping after bottom surgery. Set up a healing spot for yourself with easy access to a bathroom and all of your supplies handy.
  9. Wear loose easy pull on pants/skirt and a loose button-down shirt and slip on shoes. Bring headphones or a book to distract yourself in case you’re waiting a while for your surgery. Bring a small pillow for the car ride to cushion your surgical site from the seatbelt. Don’t bring valuables to the hospitals. Put your things in a small bag to have your buddy hang on to while you’re in surgery.
  10. Use acupuncture to improve any preexisting issues (back pain, sciatica, constipation, prior scar tissue, pain from compression garments) that could be aggravated by the surgery, to improve surgical outcomes and the healing process. Plus, acupuncture boosts your immune system, improves your sleep, and helps you feel relaxed before surgery. Schedule an appointment now for $30 off when you mention this post!

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This information is for educational purposes only, please consult a healthcare provider before taking any supplements or herbs and always follow your surgeon’s advice.