Can Women Get Hernias?

woman physician with female patient

While men are more likely to develop hernias, women can also have them; however, hernias in women can often be overlooked and go undiagnosed.

How are hernias in women different?

When a man suffers from a hernia its correlated with pain and a bulge in the abdominal area, while women’s hernias are small, internal, and don’t usually cause an obvious bulge. They’re often called “hidden hernias” for this reason.

Without the telltale bulge and with many other possible causes for pelvic pain, doctors may associate their female patients’ symptoms with another cause. Women’s symptoms are also consistent with other health problems, such as ovarian cysts or endometriosis, so hernias can often be misdiagnosed. In fact, women often go through multiple surgeries to correct these conditions but are still left with pain from a hidden hernia.

In addition, a man’s hernia is more likely to be acute early on, so this can also lead to a faster diagnosis when compared to the average woman’s experience.

What causes hernias?

Inguinal hernias are the most common type in women as well as men, and they occur when tissue – such as part of the intestine – protrudes through a weak spot in your abdominal muscles.

Femoral hernias occur when tissue bulges from your lower belly into your upper thigh, just below your groin crease. Although this type of hernia is uncommon, it happens almost exclusively in women and can occur after pregnancy or childbirth and can potentially be very dangerous.

Can hernias in women be more dangerous than in men?

If a hernia isn’t treated in a timely manner, it can become strangulated, creating a potentially life-threatening situation. A strangulated hernia occurs when the surrounding muscle clamps down around the herniated tissue. This cuts off blood supply to the small intestine, which can then cause a perforation in your intestine, causing your body to go into shock, or cause the tissue to die.

Chronic coughing, straining during bowel movements, and engaging in strenuous activity are risk factors for strangulated hernias that apply to both genders. For women, pregnancy and abdominal surgery such as a C-section can further raise their risk.

If you’re experiencing ongoing pelvic pain, contact us today for a consultation with Dr. Mark Reiner. Dr. Reiner has been recognized on a local, national, and international level numerous times in magazines and newspapers as one of the leading surgeons in his field; making him experienced in correctly diagnosing and repairing hidden hernias. Fill out the form on this page to request an appointment or call 212.879.6677 to learn more.

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