Should You Worry About Hernias During Pregnancy?
An umbilical hernia during pregnancy causes a tender but lasting pain in the belly button area. This kind is only going to be mildly inconvenient.
As your belly grows, it’s common for your innie belly button to pop out and become an outie, a new badge of your pregnancy. But occasionally, that popping navel can signal an umbilical hernia during pregnancy. Most hernias are no big cause for concern. But it’s important to let your doctor know if you have new bulges or aches in your abdomen throughout pregnancy and in the days after you have your baby.
A hernia is a small hole in the abdominal wall, which usually holds your tissues and organs tightly inside you. This includes your stomach and intestines. As your tummy grows and stretches during pregnancy, the pressure on the abdominal wall increases. And so tiny holes there that never caused problems before can become larger, or new hernias can form.
If you have a hernia, you’ll probably notice a soft lump around your belly button, or sometimes in your groin area. It might be dull and achy, and hurt more when you’re active, cough, sneeze or bend over.
As long as your hernia isn’t causing you severe pain or protruding too far, it will probably repair itself after you have your baby. There are no risks to you or your baby in just leaving the hernia be.
If it starts causing you excruciating pain, or you notice it sticking out further than it has in the past, it may be a sign that the hernia has become “strangulated” or trapped in your abdominal wall. If left untreated, these hernias can lose blood supply. They'll end up damaging your intestines, so you may require more aggressive treatment or surgery.
Most women with hernias can have normal, healthy vaginal deliveries. If you have a small hernia, your doctor will still likely recommend your labor as you would otherwise. But if you’ve had a previous C-section, for example, your doctor may suggest a C-section to deliver your baby.
Rarely, a hernia can appear during or immediately after labor, rather than while your belly is growing throughout pregnancy. That’s because it takes lots of abdominal pressure to push a baby out, which can sometimes cause a hernia.
An umbilical hernia during pregnancy or labour won’t directly hurt your baby, who's cozied up inside your uterus. So a small hole in your abdominal wall has no effect on him or her. Even if you feel sore, your baby can’t tell! But if the condition is affecting your ability to eat, talk to your doctor about how to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition. As your baby needs lots of nutrients to grow.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should make an appointment with your OB/GYN to make sure your hernia hasn’t blocked your intestines or become strangulated:
- Increased pain at the hernia site that does not resolve with rest
- A hernia bulge that protrudes, can’t be pushed back in, and is painful.
- Nausea and vomiting at the same time as a painful hernia bulge that’s red and tender to the touch.
Most hernias are congenital, meaning they’re present at birth. You may simply not notice a hernia until it expands during pregnancy. So anyone can develop one. However, certain factors can make you more prone:
- Expecting more than one baby
- Prior pregnancies, especially those ending in long labors
- A previous hernia that was repaired
- Obesity during pregnancy
In most cases, your doctor will recommend “watchful waiting.” Or keeping an eye on your hernia without any treatment. If the bulge bothers you, you can try wearing a belly band to hold it in, or massaging it back in towards your stomach.
After you have your baby, your doctor will give you some exercises to help your abdominal muscles heal from the strain of pregnancy. If your hernia still isn't repaired after you do those for the recommended amount of time, surgery may be considered a few months or more postpartum.
Surgery during pregnancy is only recommended if your hernia becomes strangulated and puts you at risk. However, if you’re having a planned C-section and have a large hernia, some practitioners may suggest getting it repaired surgically during your C-section.
If you're expecting and develop a hernia, try not to stress about it too much. It won't hurt the baby, and the risks to you are minimal. Just talk to your doctor regularly about how you feel and what to do, and chances are good you'll have a normal, healthy pregnancy and delivery.