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Post-Op Recovery Checklist: 12 Simple Ways to Make Recovery Easier

Surgery can be pretty taxing on your body, both emotionally and physically.

In addition to following your doctor’s orders after your gender-affirming surgery, you’ll want to surround yourself with loved ones and comfort to keep spirits high and let your body focus simply on healing.

Here are 12 simple things you’ll definitely want to prep in advance to make your recovery as smooth as possible.

1. Smoothies

SmoothiesA loss of appetite is typical during post-op recovery. This can make it difficult to take the prescribed pain medication. Store bought smoothies are convenient when you’re unable to cook or don’t have an appetite for solid food. It’s an easy way to make sure you have enough food in your stomach to take the prescribed pain killers. Additionally, it’s also beneficial if you’re relying on yourself to cook during recovery.

2. Music Playlist

Compile a list of your favorite songs for recovery. Music can be very healing. It helps your mind drift away from the physical pain you’re feeling and promotes happy feelings. Research shows that music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations. Many studies have also been done on the effect that music has on post-surgical pain, showing that pain was significantly less in those that listened to music right before, during, and/or after surgery.

3. Movie/TV Show List

There’s nothing more comforting to me than laughing at the antics of Dwight and Jim from The Office. When the pain is getting to you or you start to feel antsy on Day 7 of being stuck in the house, a funny, light-hearted show can make all the difference. Here’s what I saw when recovering: The Office (9 seasons!), Parks and Rec, Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Bridesmaids, and Knocked Up.

4. Visualizations

VisualizationsVisualizations and guided imagery assist in “creating a new state of mind”. Our bodies react the same to situations with no differentiation between if we are experiencing it or imagining that we are experiencing it.

Visualizations positively affect your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, brain waves, temperature and even hormone balance. They can be a tremendous benefit post surgery. There are some great resources online that will guide you through this exercise.

5. Body Pillows

Many trans surgeries require you to be in an upright position or at a 45-degree angle, as though you are sitting in a recliner. If you already own a recliner, great! If not, pillows help to manipulate your body into different positions allowing you to find that comfortable spot.

6. Shower Curtain and Puppy Pee Pads

Some surgeries come with the potential of leakage or drainage as you heal. It happens! Waterproof mattress covers can be expensive, so another option is to buy an inexpensive shower curtain. Place the shower curtain on top of your mattress or couch, then line the top of the curtain with the puppy wee wee pads. Now, your mattress and couch are saved from stains and expensive cleaning costs!

7. Straws

After surgery, bending and stretching can be difficult or even painful, and it’s often something your doctor will advise you not to do. That makes something like picking up a glass and drinking a pretty tough task. Bendy straws are a game-changer, and it takes away the stress of having to move around when the last thing you feel up to doing is moving!

8. Headphones

HeadphonesHeadphones (and even earplugs!) can be helpful when your body or mind is feeling extra sensitive and unable to handle the noise around you. Maybe you have roommates who are trying to cook and banging the pots a little too loudly. Maybe your parents are getting ready for work and your dad is yelling to your mom to find his missing tie. Maybe your partner is trying to watch television and you are dozing off. Pop them on, listen to some music or stream a show, and zone out.

9. Baby Wipes

If you’re having a surgery that requires a bowel cleanse (like Magnesium Citrate), it can be pretty uncomfortable to continuously use toilet paper. There will also be days that you can’t shower following surgery, and baby wipes can help you clean up a little during the no-shower phase.

10. Zip-Up Hoodie, Button-Down Shirt, Sweatpants

Zip-ups and button-downs are great for top surgery and breast augmentation surgery since they are easy to put on and don’t require you to raise your arms – something you won’t be able to do for some time following surgery! For general comfort and coziness, sweatpants are awesome for any surgery, period.

11. Lip Balm

For post-op chapped lips (thanks, anesthesia!) you’ll want to pick up a nice chap stick or lip balm.

12. Warm Blankets

A must-have, even if it’s summer! Anesthesia affects your nerves and can cause you to fluctuate between very hot and very cold. Have them handy just in case so you’re as comfortable as possible.

Closing thoughts

As our friends Dr. Scott Mosser and the team at the Gender Confirmation Center explain, it's totally normal and natural to feel an "emotional roller coaster" after surgery:

  • The Day of Surgery: Tired, ‘out of it’
  • 2–7 Days Post-Surgery: Anxiety, sadness, irritable, doubting decision to have surgery
  • 8–14 Days Post-Surgery: Hyper-critical, impatient, scared, eager for the recovery period to end
  • 15–21 Days Post-Surgery: Noticing results, feeling more positive, more confident in your decision to have surgery
  • 1 Month Post-Surgery: Boost in confidence, happy you went through with it, getting positive reactions from others
  • Beyond: Results keep improving as healing continues

Above all, try to prioritize self-care, taking it easy, and allowing yourself grace as you navigate your healing process.