A hernia occurs when body tissue protrudes through a weak spot or hole in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. Any number of events can trigger a hernia in women. However, hernia symptoms in women often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed for another condition.
At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, we have board-certified surgeons who specialize in treating hernias. From diagnosis to treatment to recovery, our highly-skilled and qualified surgical team is here to help you Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.
Hernia Causes and Symptoms in Women
While many people associate inguinal hernias as something that men experience, that is not always the case. In fact, 3-5.8% of women will encounter an inguinal hernia during their lifetime, making it a fairly common occurrence. In women, hernias often develop as a result of:
- Pregnancy (especially twin pregnancies)
- Straining during a bowel movement or when urinating
- Excessive pressure inside the abdomen
- Coughing, sneezing, or other strenuous physical activity
“I want to make women aware that if you have persistent groin pain, you may have a hernia that’s not appreciated,” says Dr. Kathryn Baerman, a board-certified general surgeon for EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region. “These types of hernias are much harder to diagnose in women, simply due to our different anatomy.”
Given that hernias are difficult to spot with an MRI and often have symptoms that match those of other conditions, they often get misdiagnosed as:
- Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease
- Hip pain
A list of common hernia symptoms in women may indicate the presence of an inguinal hernia:
- Chronic groin and pelvic pain
- Shooting pain throughout the groin and down into the labia or thigh
How Can You Prevent Hernias?
If you have any of the above symptoms, we urge you to make an appointment now to prevent the problem from worsening. But, if your symptoms don’t match those described, you can take measures to prevent hernias from occurring in the first place.
One of the best ways to prevent a hernia is to maintain healthy body weight. When someone is severely overweight, their abdominal wall is constantly under significant pressure from the excess fat stored in their body. With that added pressure, it is easier for organs to find even a minor weak spot in your groin area and cause a hernia.
Another way to head off hernias is to eat a balanced, fiber-rich diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole-grain foods can help support regular bowel movements. Without fiber, it is easy to become constipated and strain to the point of creating a hernia.
While not smoking has a host of other health benefits, it also lowers your risk of hernias. Over time, the repeated coughing that smoking forces can put excessive pressure on their abdominal wall results in a hernia.
Finally, avoid lifting heavy items with improper form. Many women make the mistake of lifting heavy objects with their waist instead of their knees and legs. When they use their torso to lift, it puts abnormal strain on their abdomen, putting them at risk of a hernia. In general, if something is too heavy for you to lift, do not run the risk of excessive straining and injury.
Hernia Treatment for Women
According to Dr. Baerman, “A repaired hernia significantly improves quality of life and alleviates a lot of pain and suffering for women.”
Repairing an inguinal hernia involves repairing the hole in the patient’s abdominal wall. To repair an inguinal hernia, minimally-invasive surgical repair utilizing laparoscopic techniques is standard practice. But, when necessary, a surgeon may perform open surgery to repair abdominal muscles and nerves.
If you suspect that you may have a hernia or have already been diagnosed with one, Dr. Baerman recommends that you read “In Women, Hernias May Be Hidden Agony.” In it, the writer explains how hernias in women are an often overlooked problem. She illustrates how many doctors misdiagnose hernia symptoms in women—leaving them in pain for far too long.
If you believe that you may have a hernia, do not wait to address it. Instead, schedule an appointment with Dr. Baerman or with another one of our general surgeons, To learn more, self-schedule an appointment now. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.