Hernia During Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
A hernia refers to a medical condition that happens when part of an internal organ protrudes externally through an opening in a muscle. The most common locations for hernias to develop are in the abdomen and groin area. Developing a hernia during pregnancy is not always an immediate concern unless it becomes painful. However, if it is left untreated, it could eventually become more serious and even lead to life-threatening complications.
If you know that you have a hernia and are trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant, it is important to let your doctor know so you can be examined for potential complications or treatment for discomfort. It may also be necessary to attend to the hernia before conceiving so you do not have to be concerned about living with a hernia during pregnancy.
Causes of Hernia
Hernias are the result of a weakness in the wall of a muscle or a muscle that never fully grows together. It is more common for people to be born with this weakness as opposed to developing it overtime. However, some conditions and health factors can also contribute to tissue weakness which can cause a hernia. Because muscles tend to stretch, thin and weaken during pregnancy, women are more susceptible to developing a hernia during pregnancy.
Some other causes of hernias are:
- Heavy lifting
- Fluid in the abdomen
- Increased pressure in the abdomen
- Straining during bowel movements or urination
- Excess weight
- Chronic sneezing or coughing
Signs or Symptoms of Hernia
Not every woman experiences signs or symptoms of a hernia during pregnancy. For others, signs can be both seen and felt. The actual physical spot of the hernia can be felt as a lump when you either lie down or press on the area. You may also physically see a bulge under the skin at the site of the hernia, but some are not as noticeable.
A dull aching pain may also be experienced which typically becomes more pronounced when you are active, bend over, sneeze, cough or laugh intensely. Some women also have more difficulty moving around as the pregnancy progresses and the bigger they become.
Treatment of a Hernia
Surgery is truly the only effective way to fix a hernia. The wall of the muscle must be surgically repaired to prevent the organ from coming through. However, it is recommended NOT to have this surgery during pregnancy, unless it is imposing a risk to you or your baby. Otherwise, it should be delayed until after birth and after a full recovery, which can last between three and six months. For cases that do require surgery during pregnancy, it is suggested to have it during the second trimester.
Preventing a Hernia
There is little that can be done to prevent a hernia. The good news is pregnancy does not typically cause the hernia to become further enlarged. However, providing good physical support at the site of the hernia when sneezing, coughing and laughing can prevent aggravation and further discomfort. To provide this support, you can simply use your hand and push on the hernia itself during any of the above mentioned acts. It may also be necessary to minimize extreme physical activity which can aggravate the hernia.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
The British Hernia Centre – https://www.hernia.org/types-of-hernia/hernias-during-pregnancy/
MayoClinic: Inguinal Hernia – https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/inguinal-hernia/DS00364/DSECTION=causes