May 9, 2016

My Umbilical Hernia Repair Experience

WARNING: this post may contain graphic photos (photos of my hernia and my recovery). 
     I did what almost everyone does when you want more info on something especially when it's something medical: I googled hernia repair experiences. I found one or two posts out there which were helpful but I wanted more so I decided to document and share my experience as well for those like myself searching for more info. If you are in the process of or thinking about getting your hernia repaired then I hope you find this post helpful. This is my own experience and everyone is different so your experience might be completely different from mine. For all of my regular readers I apologize in advance I realize this is not my usual type of post. 
     So let me start off by giving you my background. I am a twenty-eight year old mom of three. I developed an umbilical hernia after the birth of my second child (Sarah) but didn't realize it until I got pregnant with my third child (Levi). As my belly grew I noticed a small lump on top of my belly button. My OB determined it was a hernia and referred me to a surgeon after I gave birth. I saw the surgeon but decided to wait to get the surgery until Levi got older because of the recovery. Three years later I was having complications and decided that enough was enough and I scheduled my surgery. I scheduled my hernia repair with mesh for April 25th. 

My surgery was scheduled for Monday, April 25th so I was asked to go into the Hospital to do labs and leave a urine sample the Friday before surgery. They also gave me instructions for surgery day and gave me an antibacterial wash for me to use that morning. The nurse was super helpful and answered all of my questions. I was worried about being nauseous after surgery and having my glasses close by because I'm pretty blind. 

Surgery Day:
I was asked to go in at 7:00am with a 9:00am surgery. I didn't sleep well the night before because I was pretty nervous so I kept waking up almost every hour until my alarm went off at 5:30am. I was asked to shower with the antibacterial wash before going to the hospital so I did that and got my stuff ready to go to the hospital. We got to the hospital,  I signed some papers, changed into a hospital gown, and then got an IV. I mentioned to the nurse that I didn't want to get nauseous after surgery and she put a motion sickness patch behind my ear and I was also given an anti-acid in my IV. The anesthesiologist came next and explained how they would put me to sleep. My surgeon came next and once again explained the surgery he would be performing which was a hernia repair with mesh. The anesthesiologist came back and gave me something they said would "erase my memory" into my IV. Last thing I remember is them injecting that into the IV, getting a hug from my husband and BAM everything else I can't remember. My husband said I was awake when they took me back for surgery but I honestly don't remember anything! The surgeon estimated my surgery would be 45mins long. My husband said that the surgeon took longer than usual because it turned out I had TWO hernias rather than one. So he said I was in there for about an hour and a half. They had to use two mesh strips to repair both hernias. One was in my bellybutton (the larger one) and the other was a smaller one just above the bellybutton. I always thought it was just one large one!

Post Surgery:
I heard a nurse call me by my name and I woke up to see her and fell back asleep. Next thing I remember is waking up to see my husband and parents next to me. I was groggy but felt fine. I remember feeling shoulder pain and dry mouth. I was very sleepy and would wake up for a minute or two and go back to sleep. I got something to drink and later felt the urge to pee but couldn't completely empty my bladder. I was sent home this way. I struggled to pee at home and finally called my surgeon who told me to go to the ER where they would have to put a catheter on me. This was the most painful thing! Not the catheter itself because I've had them before after each kiddo. I've had difficulty emptying my bladder after an epidural but never thought it would be a side effect for general anesthesia or maybe I just forgot. The painful thing was having a super full bladder and not being able to pee and being in constant pain because of it. It took forever to get a room because the ER was full that night but finally I was given a catheter and I felt such relief. I was sent home hours later with the catheter. That night I began to feel pain in my incision as my anesthesia was finally wearing off. 

Day one (after surgery):
I have been taking my pain meds. My stomach feels super sore and I need help getting in and out of bed. The nice thing about having a catheter is not having to get up to pee at night or at all. I haven't gone #2 but I don't feel constipated. I was able to walk a bit today.

Day two:
I woke up with abdominal cramps and knew I had to go number two. I tried for 30 mins but was too scared to push. I had taken stool softener and laxatives and those didn't really help. I asked my husband for coffee because coffee usually cleans me out. I drank coffee and 10 mins later I had my first bowel movement. I was able to then shower with my catheter on. I had an appointment at 3pm to get the catheter removed and felt so much better after it was removed. I was able to use the restroom fine after that. I was still bloated and felt pain so I took my pain meds every 4-6hrs. After about day four I stopped taking my prescribed pain meds (Norco) and decided Advil was good enough. The pain meds made me sleepy and feel lightheaded so once I stopped things got better from there as well. I have been walking more but when I over do-it I can feel the effects at night. I get bloated more at night. After the first week I was able to finally sleep on my side without pain. I still use the little pillow they gave me at the hospital to sleep and sometimes when I walk.

My Tips & Notes:
  • Make sure you clean your system out before surgery. Meaning, empty your bowels so there is less chance of you getting constipated after surgery. I went that morning of surgery and I feel it helped things go so much smoother afterwards.
  •  Make sure you are able to empty your bladder after surgery and before you are discharged. DO NOT let the nurses discharge you if you don't feel you can pee. I went a little and the nurse heard so she thought I was fine to go but I still felt like I had to pee and I felt like my bladder was full. I told her this but she thought it was because of the patch they placed behind my ear which she said would go away once it was removed. WRONG! I was in pain and I should have listened to my instincts and not gone home right away until I felt I had emptied my bladder.
  •  If you are worried about nausea, ask for meds before surgery to help. The motion sickness patch helped A LOT. I felt NO nausea at all and I am very prone to nausea. 
  • You will get a small pillow at the hospital. This pillow acts like a shield and helps when you have to get up and use the restroom. If you don't get one, I would ask for one. My little pillow was my BFF. It's not the prettiest little thing but it got me through my first couple of weeks.
  • I noticed a small lump, not quite like a hernia but still noticeable the day of surgery and since then. I went to my surgeon and he told me this was normal as everything is still swollen. We will see!
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing. I wore dresses an skirts the first couple of days. Your belly will be swollen and you will look pregnant. I have never had a flat tummy so I don't expect to have one after I am fully recovered but I have noticed my swelling going down. 
  • You will need someone to drive you because you will be loopy after surgery, even if it is an outpatient surgery. 
  • I had pretty bad shoulder pain for a week and half. The shoulder pain was pretty bad that I took my pain meds mostly for the shoulder pain because the actual incision I could pretty much tolerate.

You can see the hernia made me look like I had an outie. That is where my main hernia was but they found a smaller one just above which I thought was art of the umbilical hernia but it was separate. The photo on the right is after surgery. 
I am currently two weeks post op and feel mostly like myself again. I am still not 100% because I still feel some swelling and some pain on occasion but I can walk and do almost everything I was able to do before surgery. I will try to update this post once I am six weeks post-op with updates and maybe a photo. I hope you found this post helpful and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. 


  1. Eek...i need this surgery as well but waiting till my little one is at least a year and a i still nurse her. Thanks for posting your experience.

    1. That is the same reason I put it off, recovery is long and I'm sure it's harder with a baby. Levi is already three so I don't have to carry him but I still needed help with other things so my husband had to take two weeks off. I hope your surgery and recovery go smoothly! :)


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