Hernia during pregnancy: Information on signs, causes and prevention

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While hernia in pregnancy is common and nothing to worry about usually, there is one instance when you should seek medical attention.

Pregnancy brings with it a huge range of physical changes. Enlarging breasts and tummy, lush hair, sensitivity to smells and leg cramps are just a few that you might know of. There are also some unexpected physical conditions, such as hernia with pregnancy, that may take you by surprise. 

Perhaps you’ve noticed your belly button is jutting out a lot. It could be more than a regular “outie”, mummy. You could have a hernia with pregnancy. But if you’re panicking already, stop. Hernia with pregnancy is common. As always, we are here to inform you about this condition, so you know what you are dealing with. 

What is a Hernia with Pregnancy? 

Your abdominal wall is responsible for keeping your tissues and organs, e.g. your intestines, in place inside you. A hernia is a small hole in this “wall” that allows bits and pieces of organs to bulge through.

During pregnancy, it’s quite common for one or many “holes” to develop due to the ever-increasing pressure on your abdominal wall as your belly grows. You may have even had small holes before your pregnancy that never caused you trouble, but all this pressure is suddenly causing them to become bigger. 

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Your hernia might be quite visible or it may be hidden.

Symptoms of Hernia with Pregnancy

The most common sign of hernia with pregnancy is a soft lump around your belly button. It could even emerge in your groin area. Sometimes, the bulge is not obvious and might only appear when you lie down (you can actually push it back in!). Or you might be able to feel it under your skin. 

However, not all women who develop hernia with pregnancy notice an obvious lump. You might only find out about your hernia with pregnancy during a routine scan, or a physical examination by your doctor. 

A dull, achy pain in the area could also indicate a hernia. The pain might intensify when you cough or sneeze and as your pregnancy progresses and your body weight increases. 

Type of Hernia with Pregnancy

There are three kinds of hernia that you can develop in pregnancy. 

  • Umbilical hernias: The most common type. These will pop out right near your belly button. 
  • Peraumbilical hernias: These are located near, but not quite on, your belly button. 
  • Inguinal hernias: More rare than the other types, these occur lower down towards your groin. They occur when your groin muscles are weakened by your growing baby in your uterus. 

Will my Hernia with Pregnancy go Away? 

The good news is that hernia with pregnancy usually resolves itself once your baby is born. In most cases, it is of no danger to you or your baby. 

But sometimes, a hernia with pregnancy can become “strangulated”. If this happens, then you should definitely see a doctor. When your hernia is strangulated or “trapped”, the blood supply to the trapped tissue (usually the intestines) is severed, and can lead to serious complications if not treated. 

Signs of a Strangulated Hernia 

  • You cannot push it back. 
  • Intense pain at the site of the hernia that does not fade.
  • The hernia is tender to the touch, red/ purple and very swollen.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.

If you have a strangulated hernia during pregnancy, the usual medical course of action is emergency surgery. 

Risk Factors for Developing A Hernia During Pregnancy

Most women with hernias have had them since birth. It’s just that they become noticeable when you’re pregnant. 

However, if you are expecting multiples, had previous pregnancies, are overweight or had a previous hernia that was repaired, then you might run the risk of developing a hernia while being pregnant. 

How is Hernia During Pregnancy Treated? 

As mentioned earlier, a pregnancy hernia will usually resolve on it own (unless it’s strangulated and needs medical attention). If it’s irritating you, you could gently push it back in, or wear a belly band to keep it in. 

Meanwhile, rest assured that your doctor will monitor the hernia closely and will recommend medical intervention if needed. Some mum who have an elective C-section request for the hernia to be operated on at that point too. 

Once your baby is born, your doctor will probably teach you some exercises to help your stomach muscles heal, and this should help with your hernia too. But if there is no improvement, your doctor may suggest surgery

Ultimately mums, if you develop a hernia with pregnancy, don’t stress about it too much. But do remember to  watch out for the symptoms of a strangulated hernia and alert your doctor without delay if you experience any discomfort at all in your pregnancy. 

Reference: American Pregnancy Association

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