The 3 Do’s And Don’ts After Umbilical Hernia Surgery You Need To Know
My doctor’s office didn’t prepare me for what life would be like right after umbilical hernia repair. I feel like they skipped sharing some very important details. (Thank goodness my Mom the Nurse weighed in with her thoughts pre-surgery!) Here’s a quick list of do’s and don’ts after umbilical hernia surgery so you can make your recovery as pain-free as possible.
I was more uncertain and cautious about having my umbilical hernia repaired than I am about giving a cat a bath. But, after doing everything I could think of to try and relieve my persistent back pain and pelvic instability, it was the only thing I hadn’t tried yet.
I had already poured over books and the internet, searching for exercises to help.
After hours of thinking, trying to remember anything I might have learned in my years of Pilates training; I used all the tricks up my sleeve and attempted all the suggestions I would give a client.
I even bought and wore a ridiculous Japanese corset.
Related: The Complete List of Umbilical Hernia Symptoms in Adults
All to no avail.
I still spent my days in pain, feeling like my body was a full laundry basket with a giant hole in the middle. It felt like I was spilling part of myself every time I moved—like I was a full, sloshy drink in a drunk hand.
So, very reluctantly, I decided to have my umbilical hernia repaired.
The post-op instructions seemed easy and logical. Piece of cake, I thought.
And when my nurse mom added her two cents, I rolled my eyes and grudgingly prepared to follow her advice mostly to avoid conflict during my post-op care.
Boy, was I glad I listened to my mom! Her suggestion (the top tip below) was such an important piece to my post-op care puzzle.
If you’ve got umbilical hernia-related questions, download your FREE copy of The Beginner’s Guide to Umbilical Hernia Repair now!
The Do’s and Don’ts After Umbilical Hernia Surgery
If you have already met with a surgeon or are planning to meet with a surgeon, be sure to ask for a copy of their post-op care instructions. This will give you a strong idea about what to expect in the days following your surgery.
Your post-op care sheet should also have a list of do’s and don’ts after umbilical hernia surgery. You absolutely want to follow those instructions and the following suggestions.
Related: Having Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery Is One of the Best Decisions You’ll Ever Make. Here’s Why.
1. Don’t use the stairs.
When I read my post-op sheet, they didn’t mention anything about stairs. Thankfully, my mom had an opinion about the matter.
She believed taking the stairs for about a week after surgery would be a terrible idea.
Honestly, because she and my dad were coming to help take care of me and the kids while my husband worked, my husband and I grudgingly assembled a bed on our main floor the night before my surgery.
I didn’t think I would need it, and I was fully prepared to walk up to my room each night after my folks turned over their daycare duties to my husband.
It turns out, as it often does, that my mom was right.
What happens when you take the stairs?
When you’re all hopped up on pain meds, the stairs aren’t so bad. But when the hospital-grade stuff starts to wear off and you just have your prescription pain meds, bad things start to happen when you take the stairs.
There’s a pull around your incision. (God, please don’t let me blow this so soon after surgery.)
Your legs don’t lift as high. (And please don’t let me fall on the stairs.)
Then, panic kicks in, the sweats start, you white knuckle the banister and truly pray. (God, if you let me make it back down these stairs all in one piece, I promise that I won’t be this foolish again for about a week.)
Don’t try it yourself, just take my word for it. The stairs are a terrible idea after umbilical hernia repair surgery.
Plan to live on the main level of your house for 4-7 days. If you need to go upstairs for any reason, make sure someone is there with you. Then, gather everything you may need and have that person carry it downstairs for you.
After you have done the stairs, be sure to rest. Taking the stairs can be very exhausting, and you certainly don’t want to put any strain on your new incision or the patch or stitches that may be behind it.
In fact, any time I had to go upstairs, I took about an hour nap once I returned to the main floor. It’s exhausting.
2. Do take your meds.
Take all of your medications as scheduled! This applies to your pain meds and your stool softener.
Don’t try to be a hero in the first couple of days after your surgery and try to stop taking your pain meds. This is a terrible idea.
Instead, take your pain meds as scheduled for at least 3 or 4 days. If you’re supposed to take a pill in the middle of the night, set an alarm to take it. This will allow plenty of time for your meds to kick in before you wake up.
You absolutely don’t want to start your day in pain, trust me.
Yet, it’s that middle of the night dose that people (like me) often skip. So, do yourself a favor and set an alarm to take that pill. You will feel so much better in the morning because of it.
Unfortunately, one of the common side effects of many pain medications is constipation. Of all the times in your life that you want to avoid constipation, right now is one of the most important times. The last thing you want is full bowels pressing against your new incision.
Follow the directions on your bottle of stool softener completely. If you have concerns about constipation, call your doctor’s office.
Also, when you do go to have your first post-surgical bowel movement, don’t push! Instead, take deep breaths and try to relax. For many people, this may be the exact opposite of how they normally do things.
However, keep in mind that any serious exertion can damage your surgical repair. If you’re not interested in having your umbilical hernia repaired a second time, make sure you’re not pushing or clenching any muscles. Breathe deep, slow breaths.
A Pre-Surgery Suggestion
On a side note, if you haven’t had your surgery yet but are close to your surgical date, it might be a good idea to start taking stool softeners now. Many people tend to be more constipated or pass harder stools in general.
If this applies to you, now is a great time to start softening things up. If you’re not sure if this applies to you, contact your surgeon’s office.
3. Do follow your doctor’s orders.
Completely follow your doctor’s orders. Yes, this is a little obvious, but it always amazes me how many people get injured because they didn’t follow their doctor’s orders.
Let me help you out: There is literally no reason why you can ignore your doctor’s orders. Literally, nothing exists that is a valid reason for why you shouldn’t follow this rule or that.
Your doctor created this list of how you should behave after surgery in order to heal optimally. Everything listed has probably been proven to help in your healing process. If you ignore this advice, you run the risk of having to explain to your doctor why your umbilical hernia surgery didn’t hold.
Then, you get to have another go at it. I haven’t had to have a second umbilical hernia repair surgery (knock on wood), but something tells me that it’s harder than just having one.
When I first met with my doctor, he likened umbilical hernia repair to mending a rip in the knee of your jeans. The fabric may have thinned through use, so it’s not beneficial to try to stitch the rip.
However, you can fix it with a patch. The patch provides new structural integrity. But what happens if you put a rip in the patch?
As someone who has ripped the patch on her jeans before, I can tell you that a successful second patch is a tricky process. I can imagine that the same is true with umbilical hernia repair.
So, follow your doctor’s rules to the T. If he says that you don’t lift anything over 10 pounds for X weeks, then don’t do it. Your body (especially your healing surgical repair) will thank you for it later.
What to Do After Your Umbilical Hernia Surgery:
After your umbilical hernia repair, you should:
- avoid the stairs,
- take your meds as scheduled, and
- follow your doctor’s orders.
If anything feels painful or seems like it might be a bad idea, don’t do it. By following these three tips and listening to your body, you should be able to successfully heal from your surgery.
Future reading: Ready to Exercise After Umbilical Hernia Surgery? Start Here.
What about you? Do you have any do’s and don’ts after umbilical hernia surgery that you want to share? Comment below.
If you’ve got umbilical hernia-related questions, download your FREE copy of The Beginner’s Guide to Umbilical Hernia Repair now!
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I used a Theragun device to work in my back and am concerned I loosened the mesh
Is that possible or am I just being overly concerned
The Theragun is a powerful device. Where did you use it?
Good advice, I just had umbilical hernia repair, you really need to count on not eating much of anything the first 2 days.
The day after surgery I tried a can of campbells soup, and felt ugh for a long time afterwards, burping and so forth. My belly
pain actually increased the second and third day after surgery, then felt better. I had the open surgery rather than laproscopic- it was a small hernia – that’s the way the surgeon wanted to do it. I was prescribed percocet for post op pain-
but it didn’t accomplish a whole lot. But my belly pain was not really that bad – sort of medium level. One odd thing I noticed was acheyness in my muscles and joints all over, supposedly that’s caused by the anesthesia – in my case Propofol – remember Michael Jackson? The percocet did help with that pain.
My next pain will be getting the doctor’s bill, I’m on the 80/20 plan, the best that my employer offers. But I’m prob looking at about 2000.00 out of pocket.
Bob, what a wealth of information you are! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!
I Am having my hernia surgery in November and absolutely terrified I’ve never had a surgery before and have had the hernia 3-5 years. I Have asked my doctors and the consultants about what I Should do or not do.. I am mostly terrified about the mesh and the surgery pain itself. Do you have any advice you could access me with further? I Read your posting and it has helped tremulously
Hi there, Shy!
It’s understandable that you’d be nervous before your surgery. I was before I had mine, and I’d had other surgeries before. If you click on this link, you’ll be able to sign up to get a free copy of The Beginner’s Guide to Umbilical Hernia Repair.
I had open umbilical hernia repair surgery (small, no mesh) 2 weeks ago today.
I stayed in hospital overnight due to circumstances which was a good idea as I doubt I could have got out of bed by myself.
Felt significantly better each day thereafter and movement got much easier at around the 5 day point. eg getting out of bed, up of a chair. make sure you roll or hold on to something. Took painkillers for 4 days after, but really they didnt make much difference on day 4 or so, as it felt the same after I took them – though pain was nothing major to me. Seemed like it was a bit swollen so figured it couldnt hurt.
the worst was constipation – day 3 took me 90 mins after 3 days of laxatives ! crazy.
Anyway, went for a short walk on day 4, felt a little strange but the next day walked 25 mins much quicker and normal. Then went up to 30 and 40 and 50 mins from there.
The back end of the second week feeling pretty normal, but making sure I dont lift anything more than ‘easy’.
cannot wait to get back into more strenuous exercise but its still going to be at least 3 weeks away, due to closed gyms, plantar fasciitis and a follow up dr appt at the 5 week point.
That’s such wonderful news! Keep following your doctor’s orders, and I’ll be here when you’re ready to rebuild your abs.
I had umbilical surgery four weeks ago and was doing good other than muscle weakness and a bit of shortness of breath. Since my surgery I had no more of the sloshy feeling or discomfort you perfectly described in this article. However, a few nights ago while sleeping on my side I woke to an oncoming sneeze. Rather than sneezing in my wifes face, I tried to turn over and while turning sneezed. I immediately felt discomfort in my belly that I had not felt prior. Since then I feel like I did prior to surgery, the pain, discomfort, and sloshiness is back. Is it possible I ripped my mesh or hopefully just pulled a muscle and will be better shortly ( fingers crossed) ?
I hate to say it, Rick, but it’s totally possible that something got messed up when you sneezed. You should contact your doctor and request an in-person visit so he or she can examine you.
Dang it. Sneezes are the worst.
Fingers crossed that all of this is just temporary pain and that you’ll get feeling back to your post-surgical self quickly.
Hi Sarah, great info you have on here! I’m a certified Personal Trainer and haven’t been able to work-out in almost 4 months due to the umbilical hernia, I had surgery with the mesh placed in me on the 20th of July. How long does the mesh last, I’m going crazy not being able to work-out but I don’t want to chance going though another surgery so I’m taking it easy! I’m interested in finding out how you strengthened your abs, I’m always looking to learn! Thank you Sarah!
Hi there, Florencio! The mesh should be with you forever–and that’s a good thing! It’s the patch that keeps the hole in your abdominals closed up.
I’m glad to hear you’re taking it easy. You don’t want to rush into doing anything too quickly and ruin your surgeon’s handiwork. I believe the general rule of thumb for someone who has had an umbilical hernia repair with mesh is 6 weeks of recovery. Then, after that, you’ll want to do some easy-but-important core-strengthening exercises. My course, Rebuild, will teach you everything you need to know to rebuild your core muscles in less than a month!