If you are a mom, you may have come across the term ‘Diastasis Recti’ (DR) at some point in your postpartum journey. It is the splitting of the abdominal wall due to increased Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) during pregnancy. However, there is also something called ‘postpartum umbilical hernia,’ which is also caused by increased abdominal pressure however, the major difference is that in addition to a DR gap, intestinal organs push against the weak abdominal wall causing a protrusion around the belly button area, which may remain after the baby is out. As seen in the image below, the hernial sac pushes against the stretched abdominal walls.
Image source: Michigan Hernia Surgery
Common facts about postpartum umbilical hernia
- You might experience mild to moderate pain in your abdominal area especially when engaging in strenuous physical activity like lifting heavy items, doing exercises that add more pressure to your weak abdominal walls (like sit-ups or crunches), coughing or laughing heavily.
- An umbilical hernia is caused by increased intra-abdominal pressure like diastasis recti. The only difference is that an umbilical hernia will result in a protrusion of an intestinal organ around the mid-section of the abdomen (where the belly button is).
- Umbilical hernias may be managed with safe abdominal exercises; however, the protrusion is usually fixed with surgery. In some cases, your doctor may advise to leave an umbilical hernia alone if it is not causing any pain/discomfort or increasing in size. Should a patient choose to undergo surgery, the protrusion is pushed back to its original spot via an incision. Always seek medical advice from your doctor about the necessity of undergoing an umbilical surgical repair.
Managing your umbilical hernia without surgery
There are a few things you can do at home to manage your umbilical hernia and possibly prevent it or reduce its severity.
Building a strong core foundation goes a long way in delivering your baby with ease and recovering well during the early weeks/months of postpartum. Remember that building a strong core prepares your body for more than “snapping back” postpartum. A strong core helps in healing your abdominal walls and pelvic floor muscles, which have gone through a tremendous amount of stress.
Core breathing is a foundational exercise that should be carried out actively and intentionally when healing the abdominal walls and improving. It can be done anywhere at anytime that is convenient for you. Below are instructions to follow:
You can also watch a core breathing video clip here in a seated position.
In a seated or standing position take a deep breath and inhale through your nose (filling the belly with air). Next, gently release the air through your mouth (as the abdominal muscles are contracted) and holding the contraction in place for about 10-15 seconds while still breathing. Ensure not to hold your breath. This simple exercise goes a long way in strengthening those weak abdominal muscles.
Correcting your posture
Maintaining proper posture goes a long way in healing your weak abdominal core muscles and pelvic floor. The image below shows the pelvis in both anterior and posterior positions. Maintaining a correct posture (last photo) also helps alleviate any form of discomfort you may be feeling in the umbilical hernia position.
Important things to note about postpartum umbilical hernia
- Umbilical hernias do not go away on their own. As mentioned earlier, fixing an umbilical hernia will require undergoing surgery to correct the protrusion and return the abdominal organs back to their original spot.
Note: not all hernias require surgery. You must seek advice from your medical doctor on whether or not it is necessary to undergo surgery or leave it alone depending on the kind of hernia it is. Hernias that may lead to complications like strangulation around intestinal organs are medically advised to be removed.
- Although an umbilical hernia may leave the belly button with a protrusion, the kinds of low impact targeted exercises done like those in the PPCORE 1 will help strengthen the core and heal the (pelvic floor muscles and abdominal walls).
In summary, your expanding uterus during pregnancy, puts a lot of pressure on the abdominal wall causing the protrusion you see afterwards. However, once baby is out, there is a drastic drop in the intra-abdominal pressure and your abdomen gradually returns to normal. If the protrusion still exists, you may be experiencing mild to moderate umbilical hernia. If you are not in pain or discomfort, you are okay to leave it alone.
Do you think you have an umbilical hernia? Visit our products tab under PPCORE 1 and get started on strengthening your pelvic floor and abdominal wall muscles. Improve your postpartum journey experience and attain long term benefits of being and feeling well.