Girl, there’s no getting around it, surgery can make some of us feel (or be) sick.
Nausea (and even vomiting) is a common complication after surgery. Although it’s not dangerous it can be pretty unpleasant.
Fear of nausea is quite common.
You may be surprised to hear it, but more patients are worried about avoiding post-op nausea than they are about pain! With my first breast augmentation, I threw up right onto my lap on my way to my hotel room to recover!
Me? I’m not worried about pain. My surgeon’s got a plan.
But the idea of feeling or being sick after surgery can leave even the strongest of us with nervous sweats.
The solution: have a plan.
Have a plan
The first step in your post-op nausea management plan is: know the causes.
It’s not surprising that after surgery you can feel queasy. You go in to a surgery on an empty stomach (you generally have to fast from the night before your procedure) and then your body is pumped full of anesthetic drugs and pain meds, and you have the trauma of surgery on top of it all!
There are lots of reasons why you may feel sick after your surgery:
- The anesthesia – the drugs using in a general anesthetic are linked to post-op nausea and vomiting. Make sure your anesthetist is experienced (their credentials are as important as your surgeon’s)
- Post-op pain meds and antibiotics – any medication can have unwanted side effects. Pain meds and antibiotics can leave you feeling nauseous because they either slow down or irritate your stomach.
- Pain or anxiety – if your pain isn’t under control, or you’re feeling really anxious this can leave you feeling a bit green in the face too
- Diet – eating too soon after surgery, or not eating enough during your early recovery (some meds will make you feel queasy on an empty stomach) can leave you queasy
Prevention is better than cure
Feeling sick isn’t harmful. Being sick in itself isn’t harmful either. But persistent vomiting can be damaging, so your surgeon will be as invested as you are in preventing it from happening.
It’s way easier to prevent nausea than it is to prevent and stop vomiting once it’s already started.
If you’ve had surgery before and it’s made you sick you may be a bit worried about what impact a BA will have on you post-op.
The second step in your post-op nausea plan is: communicate with your surgeon and anesthetist.
Your medical team will decide if you are at risk of post-op nausea or vomiting, and may include anti sickness (called anti-emetics) drugs as part of your pre and post-op care plan. For second breast augmentation, I spoke with my anesthesiologist about how sick I was with my first BA, and she didn't give me the gas anesthesia, and my surgeon, Dr. Jeremy Pyle, wrote me prescriptions for Phenergan and Zofran (which I barely needed any of because the exclusion of gas was a God-sent!) I had ZERO nausea when I woke up.
If you’ve had surgery before and it’s made you sick you may be a bit worried about what impact a BA will have on you post-op. Make sure you tell your surgeon/anesthetist about your past history, and any fears you have about nausea after surgery.
The third step in your post-op nausea management plan is: be prepared.
Before surgery day prepare everything at home so you have an easy recovery. Your best at-home strategies surround food and drink:
- Drink enough fluids - keep up a steady supply of water as being well hydrated can prevent nausea
- Eat little and often - if you've got no appetite it can be tough, but start with simple easily-digested foods (e.g. crackers and smoothies)
- Stay on top of your meds - follow the instructions for amount and frequency, and if the meds say 'take with food', make sure you do! It's easier to wean yourself off the stronger (potentially nausea-inducing) pain meds if you've got your pain under control in the early days.
- Try at-home remedies - there are natural anti-nausea properties in ginger and peppermint so you find peppermint tea and ginger biscuits are your allies! (always check with your surgeon first before trying anything unusual)
If you do experience post-op nausea or vomiting after you’ve gone home from your surgery call your surgeon and ask for their advice. There are different types of antiemetics so there are several options to manage any nausea you may experience.
Above all, stay positive. By having a good dialogue with your surgical team before and after your surgery, and by being prepared at-home, you can minimize the chances of feeling queasy after your surgery.