Whether you’re MtF or FtM, sex reassignment surgery can play a powerful role in allowing you to finally feel comfortable in your body. While not all trans people choose to pursue surgery, many do. And understanding how your body may react to the surgery, both during the initial recovery and in the long term, will help you to prepare accordingly.
Different Types of Sex Reassignment Procedures
The recovery process following gender realignment surgery will differ depending on the type of surgery performed. Those who received a vaginoplasty in a MtF surgery will need to perform a specific dilation process to slowly and gently stretch the new vagina and prevent it from sealing post-surgery. This process utilizes a series of dilation tools, which are tapered somewhat like a candle or anal plug. Immediately after surgery, a dilation prosthesis will be inserted into the new vaginal space. As you heal, you will use larger dilation tools, following a schedule prescribed by your doctor.
Those who transitioned from female to male, a variety of surgical procedures may have been performed. Recovery will vary depending on what procedures you have completed. For example, a double mastectomy or “top surgery” will remove breast tissue but leave genitals intact.
Some trans men stop at this point. Others will seek genital reconstructive procedures, which will utilize either enlarged clitoral tissue or skin grafts from other areas in order to sculpt a penis; this is called a phalloplasty. Additionally, trans men may choose to undergo a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) and/or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
These procedures may need to be completed over a number of sessions, meaning you may need multiple surgeries and independent recovery periods before fully achieving the results you want. Discuss the timeline with your doctor to get a better idea of what you can expect for your new body.
Sex Reassignment Surgery is a Major Procedure
Remember that like any other major or intrusive surgery, your body will require time to heal. Speak with your doctor to understand the procedure and recovery process. Arrange to have someone available for the first few days to help you with things around the house. You may have difficulty moving around much during recovery, and pain medication could make you drowsy or cause mental fogginess. Having someone you trust help you with things like meal preparation and housework will be extremely helpful.
You should expect to stay at the hospital for a few days after surgery. Most patients will need to recover for four to six weeks before returning to work, and you should expect to wait about six to eight weeks before returning to strenuous activities.
What to Expect in the Days Following Surgery
After surgery, it is extremely important to follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions. Come to your pre-op appointment with questions prepared ahead of time, in case you forget what you wanted to ask, and be sure someone can be with you before and after surgery to absorb information. You won’t have an easy time remembering anything immediately after surgery thanks to the painkillers, so having someone clear-headed available will help ensure you get the care you need.
Immediately after surgery, you will be kept for observation by the hospital. This will help ensure that no immediate complications arise, such as bleeding problems. If everything looks good, you will be released to go home or, in some cases, a hotel room if you traveled to get the surgery.
In these first few days after the surgery, expect to sleep a lot. The medications you take will make you feel drowsy, and your body will need plenty of rest to heal. You may also find that sitting is too uncomfortable, due to the position of the surgical site, so be prepared to lie in bed for most of your recovery time in the first week or two. Having books, movies, a mobile device or handheld gaming system can help aid with boredom when you’re too sore to get out of bed.
Long-Term Care to Keep Your New Body Healthy
Once you’ve made it through the initial healing process, there are still some things you will need to do to keep your body healthy. For example, trans men may still need ongoing gynecological care, especially if you choose to keep your ovaries or uterus. Similarly, trans women may require routine prostate care to keep an eye out for cancers or other issues. Trans women will also need to keep the vagina canal regularly lubricated for all sexual activity, and routine stretching to keep the vagina flexible is also essential.
Additionally, whether male or female, you will need to continue taking replacement hormones in order to keep yourself healthy. Some other supplements to your diet may be necessary, but do not take anything without doing proper research first. Websites like Examine.com are a great resource to give you a little more than a general idea of what supplements are out there, but ultimately you must speak with your doctor beforehand.
Talk to your doctor about these and any other concerns you may have; maintaining an open channel of communication is crucial to keeping your new body healthy!
For additional reading, visit: http://www.amsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/CareOfThePatientUndergoingSRS.pdf