hernias in women

Although they are generally associated with men, hernias can, and do, occur in both sexes. Women are susceptible to different types of hernias compared to men, and the symptoms experienced can be very different.

The trouble with hernias is that they won’t just magically disappear. This, combined with the fact that they are commonly misdiagnosed in women, makes it essential to be aware of the symptoms.

So, what does a hernia feel like for women? Let’s find out…

The Different Types of Hernias Women Experience

Certain types of hernias are more common in women than men. While women are less likely to develop groin related hernias, they do have an increased risk of abdominal hernias. These include the following:

Umbilical hernias – Umbilical hernias are most common in pregnant women, particularly those carrying multiple babies. They develop at the belly button or upper abdomen when fatty tissue, or part of the bowel, pushes through the area.

Femoral hernias – Femoral hernias are more common in women due to their wider pelvis, which results in a larger femoral canal. These hernias often appear after childbirth, when lifting heavy objects, or in those who are obese.

Incisional hernias – Incisional hernias occur through a previous incision in the abdominal wall and are more common in women who have undergone a caesarean section. The British Hernia Centre estimates that 12-15% of abdominal operations result in incisional hernias.

Hiatus hernias – Hiatus hernias affect the chest area and digestive system, occurring when the upper part of the stomach pushes into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm. Women, especially those who are overweight, face an increased risk of this type of hernia as they age.

What Does a Hernia Feel Like for Women?

The symptoms that a woman typically experiences will depend on the type of hernia. Normally, hernias in women are more compact and are located deeper down than those in men. Consequently, they tend not to protrude, although femoral hernias can present as a small bulge in the inner, upper thigh or groin area.

More commonly, female hernias result in persistent, intense pelvic discomfort and sporadic sharp, piercing pain that emerges suddenly. Activities such as exercising, coughing, laughing, or straining during bowel movements can exacerbate hernia-related pain. The nature of this pain in women can vary, manifesting as an ache, burning sensation, dullness, pinching, sharpness, or shooting pain.

Pelvic hernias are susceptible to becoming incarcerated, with a portion of the intestine getting trapped inside. If strangulation occurs, it can lead to tissue necrosis, which is a medical emergency.

Signs of a strangulated hernia include deep red or purple tissue, and a persistent bulge that remains when lying down. Other symptoms that could pinpoint a strangulated hernia include:

  • Escalating pain
  • Nausea
  • Bowel movement difficulties
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate

If any of these symptoms manifest, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Hernia Treatments for Women

Initial medical treatments usually involve conservative methods such as rest, pain relief medication, and physiotherapy. However, hernias can deteriorate over time, so hernia repair surgery may be recommended to alleviate hernia symptoms and prevent serious health complications. Hernia repair surgery is generally conducted as a laparoscopic procedure, which typically facilitates a speedy recovery.

If you suspect you have a hernia, book a consultation with Mr Michael Stellakis today to discuss the best treatment approach for your individual requirements.