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A hernia is a bulge in the stomach, groin, or upper thigh that is caused by intestines poking through weakened muscle. The relationship between a hernia and pregnancy is twofold. For those with a congenital hernia, pregnancy can make the hernia visible. The stretching and tearing of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy can also cause a hernia to develop. While it can be uncomfortable, treatment can usually wait until after pregnancy.
A hernia and pregnancy often go hand in hand. A congenital hernia, which is present from birth, frequently may go unnoticed until pregnancy. The pressure of a growing baby and the weight gain associated with pregnancy can cause an otherwise undetectable hernia to emerge. In these cases, the hernia seldom requires treatment and will most likely become invisible again once the baby is born.
Pregnancy can also cause a hernia to develop, even if a woman did not have one before. The abdominal muscles can, in some cases, weaken and tear as the baby grows. The pressure that the developing baby exerts on the intestines can cause them to poke through the weakened spot. When pregnancy causes the hernia, rather than the hernia being a congenital issue, it often appears directly in the center of the abdomen; this usually causes a protruding belly button. This occurs because the center of the abdomen is typically where the most pressure is exerted, thus causing the majority of the strain to be placed on these muscles.
Regardless of whether a hernia is realized by pregnancy or caused by it, a hernia and pregnancy can cause some health issues. In most cases, the patient or a doctor can gently push a hernia back in. It may be painful or need to be pushed in regularly, but it most likely will not cause any issues. In some cases, however, if the hernia continues to grow, changes color, or becomes unbearable for the mother, it may require surgical treatment. If it is present in the upper thigh, it may require surgery as well; a hernia in the upper thigh has more of a chance of becoming tangled, thus cutting off blood flow to the intestine and damaging it. This connection between a hernia and pregnancy is often the most concerning.
Hernia surgery and pregnancy seldom make a good mix. During the first trimester, surgery can increase the chances of miscarriage. During the last trimester, it can increase the risk of preterm labor. If possible, most doctors will wait until after the child is born before they treat the hernia.
If surgery is needed immediately, it is best for it to take place sometime during the second trimester. At this point, the baby is developed enough to withstand any disturbances, but small enough to not get in the way. If it is believed the mother may require a C-section to deliver the baby, surgery is best done during pregnancy; while treatment for a hernia is a relatively simple procedure, it can increase the risks associated with a C-section.