Plan Ahead for Comfort During Recovery
Major surgery interrupts personal and family routines. Extended
recuperation increases the time before normal schedules and activities
Looking your best provides a psychological lift during recovery from
major surgery. Abdominal surgery, as well as limb surgery, may limit
clothing choices. Before surgery, ask your doctor about the degree of
incapacitation expected and plan ahead for clothing needs while you are
still independent and mobile.
Abdominal surgery, such as appendectomies, hysterectomies, Caesarean
deliveries, or surgery on the stomach or digestive tract, usually causes
abdominal swelling. Depending on the type of surgery, the degree of swelling
will vary, as will the recovery time, before you will be able to fit back
into your to "pre-operative" sizes. In addition to swelling, the incision
will be tender and will need to be protected. Items from your existing
wardrobe may not fit or may be uncomfortable to wear.
If you are anticipating abdominal surgery, consider the following
Leaving the Hospital
Abdominal swelling limits clothing choices. Wear loose-fitting garments
to the hospital. Women should avoid fitted, zippered pants and skirts, they
probably won't zip when it's time to leave. Even clothing with snug elastic
waistbands may be uncomfortable. A loose chemise or drop waist dress or
jumper is a good choice for women. Men might consider sweatpants with
drawstrings or use a pair of suspenders to hold up trousers that won't
fasten. A jacket shirt, long sweatshirt, or overshirt makes a good top.
Avoid staying in your pajamas or nightgown all day. Getting dressed and
looking "together" helps you feel better. Sweatpants or crew pants are a
comfortable change from bedwear, especially those with drawstrings, which
allow some flexibility at the waistline.
Slacks or skirts with elastic in the back and a smooth band in the front
may be slightly more comfortable than those with a totally elastic
Consider clothing that doesn't wrinkle easily. Resting and naps are
necessary while recuperating. Knitted garments or those blended with
polyester tend to show fewer wrinkles and look fresher.
Cotton underwear breathes and is absorbent and comfortable next to the
skin. Cotton's fiber ends help the fabric stand away from the sensitive
incision area rather than hug it, as some textured, synthetic fabrics do. If
you don't already have cotton briefs, buy a pair a size larger than your
normal size. A little extra room adds comfort during recuperation. Men may
also find boxer shorts more comfortable than jockey shorts. Check with your
doctor to determine the exact location and size of incision. For waistline
incisions, bikini cut styles may be better, while full cut panties and
shorts might be preferred for incisions in the lower abdomen.
Women may find pantyhose uncomfortable against the abdomen. Thigh-high
hosiery is an alternative, if the elastic isn't too snug. Individuals with
circulatory problems should check with their doctors before wearing knee- or
Other alternatives include maternity hosiery, which allows more room in
the abdomen, but is more costly. Individuals who normally wear standard size
hosiery might try queen size until tenderness in the abdomen subsides.
Initially, socks and shoes will be the mainstay so have a pair or two of
standard crew socks or anklets on hand.
Wear shoes, not slippers, even when at home. Shoes give support and
protect the feet. During recovery, individuals may be less steady on their
feet. Any stumble or slip that puts the body out of alignment could cause
Loose-fitting nightgowns and nightshirts are comfortable, especially when
made from absorbent, breathable cotton or cotton-blends. If you prefer
pajamas, select those with drawstrings. Elastic waists may be less
comfortable for some people depending on swelling, tenderness, and location
Shop before Your Surgery
To have some control over clothing choices, shop before surgery, if
possible, to buy your own postoperative clothing. Family members are usually
doing "extra duty" during your recovery caring for you. Also, they might not
select the exact color or styles you would prefer. For example, women's
cotton briefs come in elastic or band leg. You know your preferences, but
another person might not.
Occasionally, unplanned surgery occurs. Mail order catalogs with home
delivery offer shopping convenience and choice, many companies deliver
within a few days; some provide overnight service for a charge.
Other Types of Surgery
Suggestions above addressed conditions relating to abdominal surgery. If
other types of surgery are anticipated, consult your doctor regarding
temporary reduced mobility or incapacitation. For example, shoulder or arm
surgery limits ability to wear clothing that goes on over the head. Garments
that open down the front or stretch enough to go over the arm without
inserting it into the sleeve may be needed temporarily. For women, jumpers
that open at the shoulder or down the entire side may be easier to get into
than over-the-head garments. Ask questions, know what to expect, and have
some attractive, cheerful clothing to wear during recuperation.
Comfort is important during recovery, but it also helps psychologically
to look your best. The body may not be back to normal but "looking normal"
helps. Besides, some outerwear is needed for doctors' visits, short outings
to cure "cabin fever," and just to look your best as visitors come by the
house to wish you well. Plan ahead so that, during a time of uncertainty, at
least one part of your life will be under control.
For women, a loose chemise or drop waist dress or jumper makes a
comfortable outfit while recuperating.
Changing out of your pajamas during the day will help you look and feel
better. Sweatpants and a sweatshirt are a sensible, comfortable choice.