Inguinal Hernia: How Do I Relieve the Pain?

I'm 22 weeks pregnant and at my last visit, my doctor diagnosed a possible hernia. Are hernias common in pregnancy? What can be done to relieve the pain? Will I need surgery after my delivery? I'm worried that the last four months of my pregnancy will be painful ones.

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

I'm not surprised that your search yielded few if any comments about hernias during pregnancy. The incidence of inguinal hernias in pregnancy is one in a 1,000; this is much more common in males than in females due to anatomical factors.

There are certain conditions which should be ruled out. These include: Strains of the muscles and tendons of the adductors and other muscles crossing the hip joint, uterine myomas or tumors or infections which affect the lymph nodes in the groin.

Uterine leiomyomas or "fibroids" are much more common than inguinal hernias (about one to two percent occurrence in pregnancy). If the fibroid is on a pedicle, or if there is a twist in the attachment of the fibroid, this can cause a painful swelling in the groin area.

The round ligament can also develop a twist or a bend, known as round ligament varices, which can cause symptoms similar to a inguinal hernia.

Ultrasound by a skilled technician can verify which condition is causing this pain and swelling. Localized weakness of the abdominal-wall muscle and swelling of the rectus abdominal muscle, both of which may simulate a hernia, may be correctly identified by ultrasound. Cysts, hematomas and abscesses can confuse the picture at times.

Surgical correction, either with laparoscopy or a more extensive incision, has been successful in pregnancy with good maternal and fetal outcome. You may find that this resolves after pregnancy, but it would be a good idea to have it reevaluated at six to eight weeks postpartum.

Relief measures include Tylenol, rest, warmth to the area and support. One tip I learned is to wear control-top panty hose and place a wash cloth or peri pad nside to lend support to the area.

I hope this resolves and that you are able to get some comfort for the remainder of the pregnancy. The important thing, I feel, is to get a correct diagnosis and then to have a consult with a physician experienced in this area.

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