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What You Need to Know About Surviving the Days Right After Umbilical Hernia Surgery

In this post:  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. Here’s a quick list of do’s and don’ts after umbilical hernia surgery so you can have the best recovery 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 make myself feel better and get rid of my constant pain, it was the only thing I hadn’t tried yet.

I had already poured over books and the internet, searching for exercises to help. I used all the tricks up my sleeve and tried everything that I could think might possibly help. I even bought and wore a ridiculous Japanese corset.

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!

Here’s what I have learned from my experience.

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

1. Don’t use the stairs.

do's and don'ts after umbilical hernia surgery

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, my husband and I grudgingly assembled a bed on our main floor. I didn’t think I would need it, and I was fully prepared to walk up to my room each night after my folks left.

It turns out, as it often does, that my mom was right. 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 incision 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.)

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.

2. Do take your meds.

Take all of your medications as scheduled! This applies to your pain meds and your stool softener.

Pain Meds

do's and don'ts after umbilical hernia surgery

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 really bad 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.

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, but something tells me that it’s harder than just having one.

In a previous post about umbilical hernia repair, I shared that my doctor 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.

Do you still want more information about umbilical hernias? Download my FREE guide, “The Beginner’s Guide to Umbilical Hernia Repair” now!

How is your recovery going? Do you have any do’s and don’ts after umbilical hernia surgery to share with the group? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.

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