Considerations of Repairing a Hernia When Pregnant
We know that the risk of developing a hernia is greater when abnormal pressure is placed on the abdominal wall. And rarely is more pressure placed on the abdomen than during pregnancy. Indeed, during this time there is a risk of a midline or umbilical hernia developing.
For pregnant women who develop a hernia, the first step is to visit their gynecologist or obstetrician right away to be evaluated and to develop a plan for the monitoring or treatment of the hernia. The OB/GYN may refer you to a hernia surgeon experienced in pregnancy related hernias. However, as a general rule, a hernia during pregnancy is left alone and not repaired surgically due to the added risk of surgery to both mother and unborn child. On the other hand, having a hernia does not, in normal circumstances, cause any danger to the unborn child.
If surgically repairing the hernia is a must, your particular situation will be discussed fully during consultation and a treatment plan to minimize the risk to both you and the unborn child will be implemented. Typically, it is best to perform surgery during the second trimester.
How do I minimize the effects of a hernia during pregnancy?
Living with a hernia during pregnancy is no different than having one at any other time. The main concern at this point would be to reduce any unnecessary pressure on the abdomen so as to not aggravate or enlarge the hernia. This means that if you catch a cold or have allergies that force you to sneeze or cough violently, you need to support your stomach and particularly the area of the hernia with your hands or a pillow. Further, try not to lift heavy objects (which shouldn’t be done during pregnancy anyway) and make sure that you do not strain on the toilet during bowel movements.
Will a hernia cause me to have a C-section?
The likelihood of needing a C-section due to a hernia alone is relatively low, however your OB/GYN will have to make that decision as the pregnancy progresses and as they perform their routine tests, taking into account that a hernia is also present.
If not during pregnancy, when will the hernia be fixed?
As you likely know, a hernia does not repair itself and there is nothing you can do other than surgery to fix it. However, the timing of your surgery is critical. We need to balance your recovery needs and the needs of your child with getting the hernia fixed as soon as possible. In almost all cases, we will not perform the surgery within the first three to six months after the birth, unless there is an absolute need to do so. After that, depending on the size of the hernia as well as how much it is affecting your life, we will schedule surgery accordingly. It’s important to know that a recent pregnancy does not increase the overall risk of hernia surgery or outcomes and surgery remains very safe.