What I Wish I’d Known About Laparoscopies

What I Wish I’d Known About Laparoscopies
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Life with endometriosis involves at least one laparoscopy. Because adhesions can appear deep in the body, or hidden behind other organs, they often go undetected by imaging tests. This is why laparoscopies are the current standard when diagnosing the disease. Additionally, anyone undergoing treatment for endometriosis will likely receive laparoscopic surgery.

As an endometriosis patient, I’ve had two of these procedures. Before each surgery, I did plenty of research. I read medical journals and checked out endometriosis forums, yet found very little. I also bombarded the doctors and nurses treating me with questions. Sadly, the answers I received failed to prepare me for the reality of the procedure.

In hindsight, what did I wish I’d been told?

For starters, recovering from a laparoscopy can take a while.

Before my surgery, I was told I’d be back on my feet within a couple of days. For both of my laparoscopies, I was only able to leave my bed after a week. Even then, I was too wobbly and in pain to do anything strenuous. I required constant care, including help feeding me and taking me to the bathroom.

Another unpleasant surprise? Post-surgery shoulder pain.

During a laparoscopy, our abdomens are inflated with gas. This can leave a lot of residual carbon dioxide painfully lodged somewhere around our collarbones. Drinking peppermint tea can aid with the discomfort, yet this is something other endometriosis patients told me about, not health professionals.

There is also a huge emotional toll.

Any surgery involving a general anesthetic is a massive undertaking. Feelings of anxiety and dread can surface before surgery. During recovery, having to stay horizontal, inactive, and often alone, I experienced thoughts of uselessness and loneliness. Because my recovery took longer than anticipated, it ended up feeding my anxiety, which affected my mental health.

Additionally, if like me you suffer from omphalophobia, just thinking about a laparoscopy can be quite challenging.

What is omphalophobia?

It is the fear of seeing or touching a bellybutton. If I see anyone tugging at that part of their anatomy, I will scream. If anyone gets within an inch of my own, I will automatically jump, kick, and punch until my navel is clear of curious fingers. Having stitches there turned my post-surgery recovery into a nightmare. Fortunately, at the time I had a supporting partner. He helped me care for my wounds, and didn’t mind my deafening screams whenever my bandages needed to be changed.

For Jarvis, every day is an opportunity to snuggle and avoid thinking about scary procedures. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

For some, a laparoscopy may be an easy procedure.

Endometriosis patients can suffer from heightened levels of stress. Excessive worrying about a straightforward, generally low-risk procedure is not desirable. Yet, the little correlation between what I was told and how my laparoscopies turned out, made me feel inadequate. Why was I struggling so much? Why wasn’t I able to move around or drive my car two days later, as I’d been told?

Speaking to other endometriosis patients, I found a similar level of misinformation. Even the leaflets some patients receive minimize recovery times and levels of discomfort. Why is this happening? Is it lack of research, or lazy sexism? Is it because endometriosis is considered a female health issue, so any idea of struggle is minimized? Or, is it a case of “pull yourself together, woman”?

The same can be said of smear tests. Very few recognize how incredibly traumatizing they can be. Instead of finding a less barbaric health check, we blame women for not showing up to their appointments. Where is the research to move past these invasive procedures?

Recently, research pointed toward the existence of biomarkers to detect endometriosis without the need for a laparoscopy, but we are still waiting to see these advances put into practice.

Conversations about laparoscopies need no sugarcoating. Some people may have the easiest of experiences, but for a lot of us, these are no swift, hassle-free procedures. Telling anyone otherwise will only result in frustration and anxiety when their recovery isn’t as fast as anticipated.

Honesty and less invasive procedures — that’s my wish for 2021.

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Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

Jessie is a writer living in the South of England. She was diagnosed with complex endometriosis in 2016 after two decades of chronic pain, PMDD, and suffering from other health issues since the age of 12. She is a lifestyle and science writer, but has also produced several screenplays and short stories. She is also a lip-synch assassin, a coffee snob, and Madonna’s biggest fan. In 2019 she ran The London Marathon, although her favorite pastime is curling up under a duvet with her two sausage dogs nearby. She writes about periods and endometriosis because she wants to help improve the lives of anyone diagnosed with this disease
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Jessie is a writer living in the South of England. She was diagnosed with complex endometriosis in 2016 after two decades of chronic pain, PMDD, and suffering from other health issues since the age of 12. She is a lifestyle and science writer, but has also produced several screenplays and short stories. She is also a lip-synch assassin, a coffee snob, and Madonna’s biggest fan. In 2019 she ran The London Marathon, although her favorite pastime is curling up under a duvet with her two sausage dogs nearby. She writes about periods and endometriosis because she wants to help improve the lives of anyone diagnosed with this disease

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5 comments

  1. Kira Terry says:

    I 100% totally agree with you. It is infuriating. Women are treated like children, but are expected to behave as if they have no feeling. I wasn’t prepared at all! I made light of it to my colleagues, then felt embarrased when it took so long to recover. I had a number of short term Dr’s notes.
    At the point when the surgeon shows you pictures of how messed up your insides are, they should also give you some idea of how long recovery will take. I don’t have any dependents but I imagine that the short sighted and generic way in which each case is dealt with has had huge knock-on effects to families. It certainly negatively impacts careers and romantic relationships.

    • Anonymous Endometriosiana says:

      I agree with you, Kirra. My laparoscopy was undertaken for removal of a teratoma, during the surgery they discovered endometriosis by accident. The surgery was supposed to take 30 – 60 minutes and ended up taking 2 hours. I was told I’d be back on my feet within a day. 3 days later in the hospital, including 2 days of not being able to eat or even keep sips of water in, every step was a horrendous painful effort. I was released only with protest from the doctors (due to covid I was not allowed to have visitors) after 3 nights, they wanted to keep me for 5 but I thought if all I do is lay in bed and am not able to get up for a walk or have any examinations, I can do the same at home with care of my closest persons. I ended up having to stay at home for 4 weeks in total, and not like anticipated 3 days. I still have massive problems with a bloated belly 3 months after the surgery and hope it will get better soon, unfortunately there is very little information of women who went through it to give their experiences and tips for remedies etc.
      Thank you so much for publishing the article!

  2. G says:

    I will not have a smear. Haven’t had one in YEARS. I’ve switched sex partners once since the last one, and every one I’ve had has come out clear. For such a low risk, it’s not worth it to me.

    Although I very much would like to get help for my adenomyosis, I won’t go to a gyno. Not only will I not be sexually assaulted by a doctor in order to get help, I won’t ARGUE with a doctor about the fact that I will not be sexually assaulted in order to get help.

    By the way, there are alternatives! One is the CSA (Cervical-Specific Antigen) blood test, and another is DIY kits that women can use at home. Both are close to 100% accurate. But you don’t have access to those, do you? Nope. Because you’re a cash cow. They want your ass on that table as often as they can get it.

  3. Jenny says:

    Thank you for this post. I have my 3rd laparoscopy next week and I agree with you – the recovery is surprisingly longer than most doctors suggest. Thank you for the peppermint tea idea. I will try that because my collar bone area pain was bad after both my laparoscopies.

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