Harchakot and mikveh post-surgery
31 December, 2015
My husband and I follow the laws of family purity very closely. I recently found out I might be having major abdominal surgery for a large hernia. I am due for my period pretty soon. If I get my period and have the surgery before I can go to the mikvah, or get my period during recovery, does that mean my husband can't help me in recovery? I mean, I assume I'll be in bed a lot, need meals and drinks brought to me, and need help getting in cars, and in and out of bed. I find this concept extremely disturbing. What if there is no one else to help me? Additionally, if I can't get to the Mikvah for several weeks after recovery, will I be niddah for two months or so straight? Thank you!
We are sorry to hear of your upcoming surgery.
The harchakot do apply even if one spouse is ill and in need of assistance, but there is room for leniency. (In a case of pikuach nefesh – danger to life – any assistance that is required should of course be given without hesitation.)
If there is nobody else readily available to assist you, your husband may help you in any way necessary that does not involve direct physical contact (e.g., push you in a wheelchair, serve you food, pass items to you, etc.). If you need assistance involving direct contact, it would be preferable to have another woman assist you. If that is extremely difficult, your husband may assist you when required, but should minimize direct contact as much as possible. For example, if you need help sitting up in bed, perhaps he can push up your pillow from behind you rather than supporting you directly. If there is no alternative, and you might fall or get hurt, he can assist you directly but should avoid skin to skin contact (wear gloves, or only touch each other's clothing). Your husband should not assist you in bathing or getting you dressed/undressed, although he can help with items such as a coat or shoes where there is no problem of modesty.
Observing the harchakot in this situation can be challenging, but it should not be overwhelming or cause suffering. Please don't hesitate to approach us (for an immediate answer, call our telephone hotline) or your local rav with specific questions as they arise; a solution can usually be worked out.
Once you get your period, you will be in niddah until you are able to immerse. However, it is usually possible to immerse after surgery as soon as sutures are removed, so one does not generally have to remain in niddah for months. Please discuss with your physician when he or she would permit a brief immersion in a clean, chlorinated mikveh, and get back to us for more details as to how to proceed. The topic of mikveh after surgery is addressed on our website for medical professionals, which is now also available as an app.
This internet service does not preclude, override or replace the psak of any rabbinical authority. It is the responsibility of the questioner to inform us of any previous consultation or ruling. As even slight variation in circumstances may have Halachic consequences, views expressed concerning one case may not be applied to other, seemingly similar cases. All health and health-related information contained within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health care professional. The advice is intended to offer a basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider but not individual advice. Although every effort is made to ensure that the material within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is accurate and timely, it is provided for the convenience of the Web site user but should not be considered official. Advice for actual medical practice should be obtained from a licensed health care professional.
For further questions or comments:
The Nishmat Women's Health and Halacha Site is a public service of Nishmat, The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women. This project and others like it are made possible by contributions from people like you. If you have benefited from the service, and wish to enable us to help others, click here to donate.
Users of Internet filtering services: This site discusses sensitive subjects that some services filter without visual indication. A page that appears 100% complete might actually be missing critical Jewish-law or medical information. To ensure that you view the pages accurately, ask the filtering service to whitelist all pages under yoatzot.org.