Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery: What to Expect

February 16, 2022

I promised a follow up to the first article about my journey to umbilical hernia repair. Overall, my umbilical hernia repair surgery went well. The procedure was a quick, outpatient procedure fully covered by my insurance. It was done in a hospital under general anesthesia. I mapped out my entire experience

My Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery Experience

Here's how the day of the surgery went:

  • I arrived (with my husband in tow) at the hospital 2 hours prior to my procedure to be “processed”. This entailed some paperwork and a lot of questions from the nursing staff about my medical history. The paperwork was mainly a “health care proxy” - a legal document in which a patient (me) appoints someone (my husband) to legally make healthcare decisions on behalf of the patient, if I become incapable of making decisions. It sounds scary, but it's pretty standard in these scenarios.
  • I was given a pregnancy test to ensure I was able to have the hernia repair surgery.
  • I put on a paper gown, and then received my IV from my nurse and waited for my surgical staff to greet me before the procedure. I met my anthetisaigist and his assistant. For those unfamiliar with anaesthesia, general anathetheshia is a combination of medications that put you in a sleep-like state. Under general anesthesia, you don't feel pain because you're completely unconscious. He explained that with general anesthesia, they had to give me a breathing tube in my throat to help keep my airway open and I may have a sore throat when I wake up (at first I thought I would have been better off not knowing this part, but im glad I did since my throat was a bit sore when I woke).
  • I gave all my belongings to my husband and he gave me a hug and a kiss. I was off to the operating room with one hand holding my gown closed in the back (ha).
  • I laid down on the table and with the help of my anesthesiologist, I was off to sleep. The entire procedure took 28 minutes and 8 dissolvable stitches were placed to close the hernia tear. A layer of ‘derma-bond” was used to close the incision. This is a powerful clear glue that adheres the incision together in lieu of another round of stitches. I was able to take a shower the next day without worrying about avoiding stitches (a perk of having the derma-bond applied!)
  • After a few hours (and a muffin), I was discharged with a prescription of Percocet to manage pain symptoms in the short term.

What to expect immediately after surgery:

  • Your belly button will most likely look unrecognizable and might be black and blue.
  • You may see a stitching bump under your skin (even months after the surgery). My doctor told me that this was the stitches dissolving and my body taking over with scar tissue and this process takes a few months to “flatten” out.
  • You will be swollen around your entire stomach and fluid may build here. The amount of visible swelling can be due to a myriad of factors. One of these can be the thickness of belly skin. I am on the petite side, so my swelling looks really severe when I compare images of other people’s recovery on search engines. I was assured this is a normal part of the healing process.
  • You will be very sore and coughing will be painful (be sure to take good care of yourself prior to surgery). A bad cough and sneezing from a cold could prevent proper healing. If you know you have seasonal allergies, schedule the surgery far out from this time.
  • Day 1 you won't be in much pain compared to the following days as the local anesthesia used is still active in the isolated area operated on. Always fill your prescribed pain medication even if you “feel ok” the day of the procedure. You won't know how you truly feel after all the medication has worn off after the surgery.
  • You will feel fatigued for days after the procedure. This is normal. Rest up and listen to your body.

What to expect for the next 6-8 weeks:

Although I haven't yet gotten to this point myself, I can already expect the next few weeks will be somewhat difficult and to reign in my support system. I am somewhat tough on myself and tend to overwork/overdo things sometimes so I really need to keep reminding myself to take it easy. Don’t pick up anything over 10lbs for the next 6 weeks (this includes my 2 yr old son). I have been squatting down (linear squat - using my legs as much as possible) to give him big hugs and also reading to him sitting down on the sofa (side-by-side) as an alternative to holding him. This has been a challenge but I keep communicating to him that mommy’s boo boo is healing and she is getting stronger everyday! My husband has been a big help as well as my mother and mother-in-law. It is so important to take the time you need to heal and have your support team there to help provide the help you need during these healing weeks.

I plan to also share my fully recovered results (before and after photos) in the next coming weeks after my body has fully recovered. I will share any tips for managing activities and what exercises I will ease back into after my doctor has approved. He mentioned I could be a candidate for light exercise; a stationary bike and/or walking. I plan to start Core Compressions™ again when my body is ready by easing into Every Mother’s Early Postpartum Path to restrengthen my core and promote healing with gentle movements. I will share the timeline of my exercise plan in the next coming weeks also. I am excited to be stronger than before and work to fully resolve my diastasis recti now that the hernia is repaired. Thanks for reading, and I hope my experience sharing helps you decide how to proceed and prepare for your own umbilical hernia repair journey.

Megan is an Every Mother member and mother of 1

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