Before & After Surgery
The more preparation you do before your gender-affirming surgery, the smoother your recovery period will be. This section will help you create an aftercare plan for success after surgery.
Gender-affirming surgery is a big deal! It’s common to feel a wide range of emotions, from excitement and relief to anxiety and depression. It can help to have people to talk to about your experiences and feelings as you plan for, and recover from, surgery. Many people find it helpful to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. You might meet people who have had gender-affirming surgery through friends, support groups, or online networks. Lots of people find it helpful to talk to a counsellor during this time. Contact Us for recommendations of counsellors who are knowledgeable about supporting trans people. Check our support group listings to connect with people in your area.
The healthier your body is, the better your surgical outcomes will be. Eating a well-balanced diet in the period before and after surgery is very important. Consider consulting a nutritionist to get help with meal planning. You can talk to your health care provider about physical activities you could engage in before surgery that would promote healing later on. If you smoke cigarettes, consider making a plan to quit. Smoking interferes with your body’s ability to heal and can cause complications following anesthesia and surgery. Check out the BC Smoking Cessation Program for support.
Consult with your primary care provider (PCP) and surgical team
While you’ll find a wealth of information online, your health care providers will have information that is most relevant to your unique situation. Find out what you should do to prepare for surgery, what to expect during the healing process, and how long it will likely take to recover. It’s also a good idea to set up appointments for your post-operative check-ups in advance. If you are travelling across a border and your gender presentation does not match your ID, consider asking your PCP to write you a carry letter. A carry letter is a document that you can show to a border agent if you are questioned about your identity.
Stock up on supplies
Before your surgery, stock up on non-perishable groceries. Prepare some meals and freeze them. Collect all of the medical supplies your surgeon has directed you to have on hand.
Do household chores in advance
Do your laundry ahead of time so you can come home to clean bedding and clothing. Comfy, loose fitting clothing will be best. Since you’ll need to rest when you come home, you might want to get other household chores, like cleaning, done ahead of time, too.
Schedule help from friends and/or family
You’ll benefit greatly from having a strong support system around you after surgery. Identify the people in your life who can help you as you recover. Ask someone with a driver’s license and car to pick you up from the hospital or airport, bring you home, and stay with you for the first 24 hours. Ask a handful of people to help with meal preparation, laundry, cleaning, and errands until you are able to do these tasks yourself. It’s helpful to have a schedule worked out in advance. You may also want to have visits from people for entertainment and emotional support. Consider whether you want to have a spare key to your home made ahead of time to facilitate your support people’s visits.
If you have a job, you’ll likely need to arrange time off work for your recovery. You may need to get a letter from your PCP or surgeon to give to your employer to request a leave. This letter will not need to specify the reasons that you will be away. Depending on the kind of work you do, you might want to negotiate some lighter work during the period when you first return. If you have a health care plan that covers the cost of medical supplies, you may need a letter from your surgeon or PCP to document what is required. Be sure to save your receipts so you can get reimbursed. You might want to check if you qualify for Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits.
Change your ID (if applicable)
Surgery is required before gender markers can be changed on some documents. Click here to find out about changing your ID.
Sex after surgery
Gender-affirming surgery can have a big impact on your sex life. Once your surgeon says it’s okay to have sex after surgery, you may notice sex feels different than before. For one, the way you feel about your body might be different, and this will impact your comfort and enjoyment of sex. The physical sensations will also be different, as a result of both your new anatomy and the healing process. Surgery may also have an impact on the way you or your partner(s) identifies in terms of sexual orientation. Many people find support groups and/or counselling to be helpful navigating sex and relationships after surgery. See our Sexual & Reproductive Health section for more information.
Maintain your health
Ask your primary care provider about what preventative screenings and exams they recommend for you over the long term (breast exam, pap smear, bone scans, etc.). If they aren’t sure, inform them about the Rapid Access to Consultative Expertise (R.A.C.E. Line) that they can call to receive rapid assistance from a clinician with experience in trans health. Continue to take good care of yourself and reach out as needed. We are here to help you get connected with the supports in your community.