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.

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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: Choosing to Have Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery Is One of the Best Decisions You’ll Ever Make. Here’s Why.

1. Don’t use the stairs.

man lounging on the couch

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.

Pain Meds

bottle of pills

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.

Stool Softener

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!

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! After going through umbilical hernia repair, I recovered and used simple exercises to rebuild my abs so they're stronger than ever. Let me help you do the same.

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