Excess pressure on the abdominal cavity increases as the belly grows and stretches during pregnancy. Even the pressure could be much greater during delivery to push a baby out. As a result, a number of discomforts and problems may occur during or after pregnancy. One of them could be the appearance of lump above the belly button.
Also called diastasis recti, it is a lump or pooch that occurs when the space between the right and left abdominal muscles (‘six-pack’ muscles) has widen, making the belly stick out. It is a common consequence of growing baby throughout pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the uterus enlarges and stretches the abdominal muscles. This widens the muscles, which eventually they’re not strong enough to keep their shape and results in partial or complete separation. The condition is quite common, even about 50-70 percent of pregnant women have it over the course of pregnancy or postpartum.
The most common symptom is a lump that looks like a vertical ride, which typically appears a few inches above the belly button – but there is no hole on the abdominal wall fascia.
The lump usually goes away when lying down. Even when standing, there may be only a bit of prominence. But the vertical ridge will look more clearly when you move from a lying position.
Besides the lump mentioned above, the separation might also cause other discomforts such as abdominal bloating, constipation, lower back pain, or urine leaking.
Who is at high risk?
The risk of having the condition increases for women with the following risk factors:
- Women who have more than one pregnancy, particularly if those pregnancies are close in time.
- Being pregnant at 35 or over.
- If they’re delivering a heavy baby, two babies (twins), or more.
In a few cases, the condition can affect men. Men can have it for several reasons, and one of the most possible ones is from strenuous exercise that puts so much pressure on the abdominal muscles (such as extreme weightlifting or sit-ups in wrong ways).
Moreover, it can also occur in newborn babies, which is usually temporary because it often relieves on its own.
Complications and prognosis
The condition might make you become harder to move or breathe normally. Other possible complications:
- Pelvic pain.
- Pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Poor posture, including varying degrees of mobility and balance problems.
- Increased risk of hernia. Rarely, the abdominal wall fascia may eventually tear (in extreme cases), causing a hole that allows abdominal contents to protrude – that’s called hernia.
The good news, diastasis recti rarely cause serious complications. Also, the muscles opening may shrinks naturally after giving birth. It often relieves without any surgical intervention.
But sometimes the muscles are more difficult to come back to normal. In such cases, a number of treatment options are available to help cope with.
If the separation of muscles opening is mild (not too big), it’s usually recommended to live with it. But you have to fix it before your next pregnancy. Many times it improves with practicing gentle movements that stimulate the muscles to get back together – ask a doctor or physical therapist for more advice.
Surgery is rarely used to treat diastasis recti. It is only suggested when non-surgical approaches fail to improve the separation or sometimes for cosmetic reasons. There are a few types of surgery for diastasis recti, some of the common ones are tummy-tuck surgery and laparoscopy.
Hernia lump after pregnancy
Pregnancy can increase the risk of hernia. However, hernia is rarely caused by pregnancy because it is more likely to occur if you’re born with a weakness in the abdominal wall. Furthermore, it is commonly thought as a male health problem.
A hernia is actually a hole that forms in the abdominal wall. As a baby grows throughout pregnancy, the pressure on the wall also increases. In rare cases, the wall is not strong enough to respond the pressure and this may cause a hole to form.
The most common symptom is a lump (swelling) beneath the skin, which typically improves (disappear) when you’re lying down and becomes more visible when you have pressure on your abdominal wall (such as when straining and coughing). It could be the size of a small or a large grapefruit, depending on how large the hole forms and the pressure that pushes out.
A dull aching pain arising from the lump may also be experienced. The pain usually becomes more pronounced with any activities that cause pressure in the abdominal wall, such as; when sneezing, coughing, bending over, or laughing a lot.
Are you at risk of developing the condition?
Most hernias associated with pregnancy may be congenital. But in general, your risk might also increase if:
- You have a personal history of hernia.
- You expect multiples.
- You end your pregnancy in long labor. In rare cases, a hernia may occur during labor or immediately after giving birth.
- Being obese before pregnant.
- You develop diastasis recti during pregnancy, as explained earlier.
The condition is not necessarily dangerous. But it could also turn into serious when it gets trapped (incarcerated). Incarcerated hernia can cause serious, life-threatening complications such as strangulation and blood poisoning (sepsis). To keep safe, see a doctor without delay if you experience some of the following emergency signs and symptoms:
- The pain at the hernia site gets worse and doesn’t improve with rest or other lifestyle measures.
- The lump or bulge that protrudes — is difficult or not able to be pushed back with manual pressure. This may signal that the bulge becomes trapped.
- The bulge becomes red, more sensitive, or tender to touch.
- Severe, persistent nausea and vomiting.
If your hernia occurs during pregnancy, it usually won’t affect your baby. A small hole in the abdominal wall should not have a significant impact on the uterus, where your baby grows over the course of your pregnancy. But if the condition affects your appetite or ability to eat, talk to your doctor!
Treatments and prognosis
Currently, the most effective way to repair the hole is with surgery. Non-surgical treatments are also available, but they’re usually aimed to help control the condition and prevent it from worsening – not to repair the hole.
However surgery for hernia is also not always necessary since it’s not going without risks. Several factors may affect your decision of taking early surgery. For example, if you have a plan to have another pregnancy, you may want to repair it before pregnant.
Surgery might be considered several months or more after giving birth. Surgery during pregnancy is not recommended, except if the condition is imposing a risk to your pregnancy. For instance, surgery is necessary, including during pregnancy, if you have an incarcerated or strangulated hernia.