A hernia occurs when a part of your intestine or other abdominal tissues protrudes through a weak muscle layer in your abdominal area. Pregnant women are at high risk of getting hernias due to the elevated pressure on the abdomen at the time of pregnancy. Most pregnant women experience external hernias, which means that they affect the abdominal wall and form a noticeable bulge under the skin. Hernias are more commonly observed in the abdomen or groin area.
Hernias that develop in the groin area are known as inguinal or femoral hernias and are common in the general population and pregnant women. However, the hernia that develops around the navel (belly button), known as an umbilical hernia, is more common in pregnant women.
Hernia during pregnancy is not always an immediate problem unless it causes pain or any other symptoms. In most cases, hernias that develop in pregnant women might not cause any unpleasant symptoms; in such cases, one can wait until birth to have them repaired.
However, a few people experience discomfort due to hernias during pregnancy, which require treatment. If a hernia develops severe complications, it can be repaired with a surgical procedure, though there is minimal risk to you or your pregnancy.
Causes of Hernia during pregnancy
Most of us know that a weak muscle wall or improper growth of the muscle is a risk factor for developing a hernia. Some people are born with this weakness; some develop it over time, while others develop this tissue weakness due to certain conditions and health factors that can cause a hernia. During pregnancy, your muscles become thin and weak and tend to stretch, which puts you at a higher risk of developing a hernia.
Below are some of the risk factors that may cause hernia during pregnancy.
- Lifting heavy objects during pregnancy
- High abdominal fluid
- Multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Straining during bowel movements or urination
- Being overweight or obese
- Previous abdominal surgery, including hernia repair
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic sneezing or coughing
- Family history of hernias
Symptoms of a hernia during pregnancy
Some women might not experience any signs or symptoms of a hernia during pregnancy, while others can have noticeable signs or symptoms. They can see and feel the hernia as a lump when lying down or pressing on the area. Sometimes a hernia may physically appear as a bulge beneath the skin, though some are less prominent.
Pain is another common symptom of hernia, which is generally dull, but certain activities like walking, bending, sneezing, coughing, laughing intensely, or lifting objects can intensify the pain. With increasing body weight and the progress of your pregnancy, symptoms could get worse.
Hernia Treatment and Prevention
Experts say that there is no preferred time to repair a hernia in pregnant women. Small hernias that are not causing any problems can be repaired during c-section or after giving birth. But in some cases, hernias need to be treated surgically even though they are still pregnant.
If there are any complications, such as a trapped or strangulated hernia, emergency surgery will be necessary. Some doctors say that if surgery is necessary during pregnancy, then it is safe during the second trimester.
Hernia prevention during pregnancy
Although there are some precautionary steps to reduce the risk of developing hernias during pregnancy, they can’t be prevented completely. The following are some tips to prevent hernias and manage them if they occur during pregnancy:
Maintain a healthy weight: Maintaining a healthy weight is very important because weight gain is very common during pregnancy. Gaining weight puts undue stress on the abdominal muscles, which increases the risk of developing a hernia.
Lifting techniques: Do not lift heavy objects. If you need to lift any object, bend your knees (squat down) and keep your back straight, which is a proper lifting technique.
Maintain good posture: Proper posture while sitting, standing, sleeping, etc. is important to avoid strain on your abdominal muscles and back.
Exercise regularly: There will be special exercises for pregnant women to strengthen their core muscles. Consult an expert and start exercising regularly during pregnancy.
Pelvic floor exercises: Kegel exercises specially tailored for women can improve the strength of pelvic floor muscles and also provide added support to the abdominal area.
Prevent constipation: Don’t strain during bowel movements at the time of pregnancy because it strains your abdominal area and puts you at risk of hernia. Drink more liquids and eat more fiber-rich foods. It is also recommended to use stool softeners if necessary, as advised by the doctor.
Supportive gear: Wearing supportive clothes, maternity belts, or bands can relieve abdominal pressure. They also provide support for their lower back.
Adjust your activities: Be aware of the activities that put pressure on your abdominal muscles. Avoid doing such activities or adjust according to your body’s limitations.
Don’t miss regular check-ups with your doctor because they will monitor and assess your overall health condition, address any health problems, and guide you through a healthy pregnancy.
If you are a pregnant woman with a hernia problem, consult Dr. Venugopal Pareek, one of the best hernia surgeons in Hyderabad. He has vast experience in treating various types of hernia and is an expert in treating hernia that occurs during pregnancy. For appointments call +91 91-777-77715 and book your slot.