Umbilical Hernia Post-Operative Instructions

You have had an Open Umbilical Hernia Repair. This just means your hernia was in the belly button region, and sutures were placed to repair the hernia.  After having your hernia repaired, there are no limitations on your diet.  After the surgery, you may feel full or nauseated easily.  This is usually due to the anesthesia during the operation. If it persists beyond one or two days, you should call the office for advice.

You have been given a prescription for narcotic pain medication. This often slows the bowels down and you may become constipated. It is advisable to take a laxative the first few days after the operation to make sure you do not become overly constipated, because if you are straining during a bowel movement this can damage your hernia repair in the first few weeks after the operation.

The incisions have “Steri-Strips” (or small tape) across them, and a plastic adhesive dressing over the top to protect them from water. You may wash over the plastic dressings in the shower. Please do not soak in a tub or bath as this may loosen the plastic dressings and they may fall off, leaving the incisions exposed. After about 48-72 hours, the incisions in the skin are watertight, but they are still very weak, so it’s important to protect them for about 7 days. Leave the plastic dressings on for at least 72 hours after the operation. You may remove the plastic and underlying gauze after 72 hours, but leave the Steri-Strips in place.  You may then wash gently with soap and water over the Steri-strips, but be sure to dry them well after your shower.  If the Steri-strips have not fallen off by themselves in 7 days after your surgery, you may remove them.

Your activity level should be reduced the first two weeks after the surgery. The incisions are about 60% strength of normal tissue at 6 weeks. We generally advise not to lift anything more than 15lbs. for 6 weeks. You can increase your activity after the first two weeks. I often advise to “let pain be your guide” in your recovery. This just means you can steadily increase your activity as long your pain is under control. Often after surgery you may have a few days where you feel really well. This is usually when people increase their activity level and the following day feel very sore or very tired. This is normal. It’s OK to do this, just be aware you may experience these “ups and downs” for a few weeks. Just as long as you are improving from week to week, you are on the right road to recovery.

If you should have fevers, chills, increasing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or an increasing bulge in the incision area please contact the office. If you have any other questions or concerns during your recovery, please do not hesitate to either email or call us at anytime. Our phone system electronically and immediately alerts us to new messages 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so if you do call after hours please leave a message and someone will return your call. Please call the office to make your post-operative appointment 7-10 days from the surgery.

It was a pleasure helping you with you care.


-Dr. Buck

P.S. Please leave any comments or questions for me below. Thanks!

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  1. I had a hernia removed on 6-6-12 and have been very nausus since is this normal it was above my nave not imbiblical

    • Hi Audrey,

      That is quite a while ago to still be nauseous from a hernia surgery. It could be some scar tissue affecting your bowels, or it could be something simple such as a different medication. Either way I think you should be feeling fairly normal by now so I would recommend you return to see your surgeon.

      -Dr. Buck

  2. Dear Dr,yesterday my surgery was done of umbilical area .A curette was done because of continuous discharge now I am very severe pain around the umbilical area i took brufen but its not working advise me some analgesics

    • Hi Dr. Khurram,

      Unfortunately the best over the counter pain medications are Ibuprophen and Naproxen. You can take either one every 6 hours, but not both together. If you are having severe pain, it will probably be best if you have your doctor or surgeon examine the incision to make sure it’s not infected or something is wrong with it. Hope this helps.

      -Dr. Buck

  3. Dr, my dad had an umbilical hernia surgery about two months ago, but still complains of abdominal pain and pains on the legs. I thought Aleve could be of relieve. Please advise us.

    • Hi Sam,

      It’s really tough to tell what exactly is going on right now. There are a host of things it could be at this point…some concerning, and some just normal post-operative course. Unfortunately, I do think he needs to be examined by his surgeon to see what exactly is going on. Sorry I couldn’t be much help in this scenario.

      -Dr. Buck

  4. I had surgery on Thursday for this, I think it was the 8th. My steri strips are starting to come off and its kind of scaring me cause I can sort of see the cut and it looks like its bleeding through the strips. I’m only 16 and I really don’t know what to do.

    • Hi Brittney,

      The steri-strips usually start to come off about now…so I think you are fine. After about 48 hours, the incisions are generally water-tight, so there shouldn’t be any concern that the steri-strips are gone. Unless the incisions continue to bleed, some blood on the strips are normal.

      Hope this helps!

      -Dr. Buck

  5. I had my umbilical hernia surgery the last nov15 but the last thurday i start feeling pain and smeling in my incision went to the dr they said is an infection named cellulitis is this infection really bad did i need to take care a lot or jus take my antibiotics and relax!! what can i do?

    • Hi Anniee,

      Sounds like you should probably wash the incision and take antibiotics. If it does not get better in a few days you should see your surgeon again.

      -Dr. Buck

  6. I had an umbilical hernia repair 16 days ago. Everything looked normal until last night when I noticed that the area around my belly button has sunken in again. Does that mean that the surgery didn’t work? Should I lay low or does it even matter? Is it inevitable with abdominal diastasis?
    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Allison,

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “sunken in again”. I guess I don’t know what it looked like before the surgery, directly after and now, so I don’t know what to say. If you have pictures you can email them to

      -Dr. Buck

  7. Hello Dr. Buck,

    I will be having umbilical hernia surgery on January 3. I have a 15 month old daughter (who is at least 25#) and a 3-year old, and I do not have extended family around to help me, just my husband who works a full-time job. I am trying to figure out now how to adjust things like doing diaper changes on the ground, having the baby sleep on the ground, and having other people bring my 3 YO to preschool so that I’m not lifting my baby into the car seat. Any advice on how to lift more “smartly” would be appreciated…

    My foremost question question however is regarding pushing – if I can get my very ept walking baby to put herself in her lightweight stroller, can I push it safely, and if so, when? Assume that there will be no lifting at all, and no hills. What is the ‘formula’ for this…what does number of pounds pushing equate to with pushing a stroller full of x pounds?

    Thank you in advance!


    • Hi Lizbeth,

      There is no real “formula” for this. The best thing you can do is to try pushing light weight first and work your way up as tolerated. And by that I mean when you feel discomfort, back off to a lighter weight so whatever you are pushing is not causing pain or discomfort. Hope this helps!

      -Dr. Buck

      • Thank you – I appreciate it. I will indeed use common sense, and understand there’s no strict formula. Thank you for answering my questions and others’. :)

  8. I had an umbilical hernia surgery on the second week of Nov. 2012. I did not lift more than 10 lbs for 6 weeks. After the 6 weeks, I started lifting my 18 lbs son and carrying him in the car seat two days in a row. I suddenly felt the sharp and bruise nearby my belly button when I get up or walk or lift my son or lay on my back. So, I have to bend down while I walk because I don’t feel the pain. Is It tearing?

    • Hi Melissa,

      I would take it easy for a few days and see if it improves. If it doesn’t improve with a few days of activity rest, you may want to see your doctor.

      -Dr. Buck

  9. Dear Dr. Buck,

    Thank you so much for providing this information and all these answers. I’ve just taken my dressing off and was surprised by my new belly button. I thought the surgeon would cut in a semi-circle around the belly button. Instead he went almost vertical over it. Now, I don’t have a belly button as such. Where I used to be able to put my finger there is now a small bulge of what I guess is skin and fat. I’m not vain, I’m just worried about hygiene as dirt could collect in the folded skin. Is it swelling? Will it disappear? Will I have problems keeping a clean belly button? How long should I wait before using a cotton bud to clean out my new belly button?

    I’ve included a photo which I give you full rights of use over so you can use it on your website or where ever else you like. Many thanks.


    • Hi Robin,

      I think the vertical incision will heal OK. Of course there will be a small scar, but after some time it will be fairly faint (it may take up to 2 years.) However, I’m not exactly sure that the belly button itself should look like that. It’s possible the umbilical hernia recurred (hopefully not!) or you have a “hematoma” or collection of blood underneath the skin. If it’s a hematoma, it should resolve by itself over the next couple of months and you will have a normal looking (“innie”) belly button again. I think you should see your surgeon and see what he thinks about this. He may have placed the bandages over the incision when it looked different than it does now….but only he will know that.

      Hope this helps!!

      -Dr. Buck

      • Dear Dr Buck,

        Thank you so much for your input. I have one last question. How can I tell if it’s the hernia, heamatoma or skin and fat? It doesn’t change size or shape so I guess it’s not the hernia.

        Yours gratefully


        • Hi Robin,

          It’s really not always easy to tell the difference, that’s why I suggested you have your surgeon take a look because he knows what it looked like when he left the operating room.

          -Dr. Buck

  10. I am having umbilical repair surgery in a few days. It’s small and no mesh is required. Will I be able to carry my 11 month old baby afterwards? She weighs about 20 lb. My doctor has said as long as I do it in a “certain way”. I’m not sure what this means?
    I’m a regular gym-goer, doing intense cardio and weights 4 times a week. Again, I’m confused as to when I can return to my normal fitness and strength routine. I’ve read 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks…?
    Most people would consider me very athletic and my pain threshold is pretty low.

    • Hi Nadia,

      Most healthy, young and athletic people can return to exercising (although I always advise to ease into it) between 2-3 weeks pos-op. It varies depending on the patient and their recovery….which is why you will see many different recommendations. If you start out slow at 2 weeks (walking with light jogging intervals) you will be able to tell if you are feeling really well or the incision is causing you discomfort. The same for your baby. When you are lifting him/her the first couple of weeks you should do it in a slow and controlled manner. As there is less discomfort, you can increase your activity and lifting capacity.

      Hope this helps!

      -Dr. Buck

  11. sorry..I meant to say I have a HIGH pain threshold.

  12. Hi Doctor,
    Thank you for all the great information. I had a umbilical hernia surgery 7 days ago and everything seems to be going well.The range of my movements and pain seem to be coming along well however I seem to be in most discomfort when I am bloated. I am having trouble releasing all the air in my stomach which causes the pain. Is this normal and what do you recommend?

    • Hi Ryan,

      The bowels take some time to get back to normal. The best thing you can do for that is walk as much as you can. It’s the only thing that has been proven to speed up the bowel recovery.

      Hope this helps!

      -Dr. Buck

  13. Hello Dr. Buck,

    I had umbilical hernia repair with mesh on Monday, April 15, 2013. The hernia was really small you couldn’t really tell I had a hernia. I noticed the hernia after I had my son four months ago and my belly button never went all the way back in the doctors and surgeon said it was really small and all the surgeon would have to do is cut underneath my belly button and stitch my abdominal wall back together without using a mesh but a mesh was used anyway. It’s four days later and everyday since the surgery I have been getting nauseous, dizzy, blurred vision and a headache everyday. Today is the worst day yet. Do you think it’s because of the surgery? Or mesh? Or both? What you would consider me doing? Also, what happens to the mesh after years of being in the body?

    • Hi Amanda,

      It’s possible the pain medication is causing you to be nauseous. It should not be due to the anesthesia, or mesh. Depending on what kind of mesh is used, it could remain the same in your body, or be dissolved over a long period of time.

      -Dr. Buck

  14. Just had umbilical hernia repair 2 days ago. I have a disabled daughter 65 lbs who I lift several times a day regularly. I have been told that I will be able to resume lifting, slowly at first, in approx 3-4 weeks. However I have been reading a variety of lifting recommendations ranging from 2 weeks to 1 year. I am getting concerned as I do not want a reoccurrence but an extreme extended period of not lifting is unrealistic in my situation. Also wondering if my tummy will be larger/less tone permanently as a result of the surgery?Appreciate any advice. Thank you.

    • Hi Mary,

      I recommend 2-6 weeks depending on your physical fitness before the operation. Young kids in high school who are very fit can go back sooner than older folks who are overweight or obese. Does that make sense? Also, those who smoke, or take steroids on a regular basis for chronic disease will need more time as well. That’s probably why you are seeing different recommendations. I think that your doctor took into account your specific situation and recommended 3-4 weeks for you based on that. Your stomach should not be larger once the swelling subsides (this can take up to 1-2 months for all the swelling to subside).

      Hope this helps!

      -Dr. Buck

  15. I am scheduled to have one of these procedures next week. I am extremely nervous as I just had my first consultation today and was already scheduled for surgery. Apparently the hernia is not very big but I am concerned about scarring. What kind of scarring can I expect from this type of surgery. My doctor said he believes it will just require stiches but it is possible he may need to use the mesh lining. He will not know for sure until he is inside.

    • Hi Alina,

      It depends on the size of the hernia. I usually make a semi-circle incision over the top of the belly button. Some people make a vertical incision through it. Depending on the size of your belly button, it could be just inside or just outside it. If the hernia is larger, you may need a larger incision. It can be anywhere from 4cm to 10cm (with most small umbilical hernias being around 4-5cm incision.)

      Hope this helps.

      -Dr. Buck

  16. I had umbilical hernia repair 3 days ago. The incision is above my naval. I am concerned about the redness around my surgery site….shaped king of oval and extending 2 or more inches from center.It is a dark pink. I have called the nurse and she said to wait over the weekend and then call the doc on Mon…this is Fri. I have taken 1/2 or less the dose of pain med and hardly any today as I am not a pill taker. I am not running a fever or chilling. Is this typical? I have mesh inserted and the hernia was small. I am 60 years old and have stretch marks around my naval from 3 pregnancies.

    • Sorry I’m getting back to you late! Hopefully you have resolved the issue by now and it was just a little bruise!

      -Dr. Buck

  17. Dr. Buck I have a concern because I have to have umbilical hernia surgery in 2 days but I had my gallbladder removed almost a year ago and there is a lot of scar tissue surrounding my belly button… The dr. seemed a little concerned about this and informed me that they would have to perform the surgery open instead of laparoscopic. Just want to know if this is always the case or could they still do it
    through keyhole?

    • Hi Amber,

      Most of the time I do these as an open surgery. The reason is because the open surgery usually has the same size scar or smaller than the laparoscopic surgery. Umbilical hernias are usually pretty straightforward for General Surgeons and the laparoscopic approach usually will complicate the surgery more than needed…even in situations where there is a previous surgery. I don’t think you need to be overly concerned about this.

      -Dr. Buck

  18. I had hernia surgery almost two years ago, for the last 7-8 months I’ve been getting severe pains/cramping right over the belly button where the incision was, it almost feels like food gets stuck there. After several hours of the pain I will finally have a bowel movement…but these are few and far between. In between movements I usually have some mucus come out but there is no solid waste coming out. I was wondering if there could be some scar tissue from the operation pushing on my intestines or something like that.

    • It sounds like you may have scar tissue trapping your bowels, or even another hernia. I think it’s wise to see your doctor to sort it out.

      Hope this helps!

      -Dr. Buck

      • Thank you! I do have an appointment with a GI specialist set up for 10/1

  19. Dr. Buck I just had a question? I had a umbilical hernia repaired five years ago and I am 25 years old and I just recently got a personal trainer, and I just wanted to know do I have any limitation on abdominal exercises that I should not do?

    • Hi Ashley,

      At this point there is no restrictions on your activity.

      -Dr. Buck

  20. Hi Dr.
    I had an umbilical hernia repair 4 weeks ago. I seemed to be healing well and feeling good until I went back to work this week. I get sharp pains in my stomach around incision and there seems to be a lot of hard lumpy areas under the skin. Is this normal?

    • Hi Angele,

      The pain I think your experiencing is pretty normal. Just give it a rest after you have that pain and it should subside. The hard areas sound like scar tissue. If the pain persists more than a few days after resting, then you should see your surgeon.

      -Dr. Buck

  21. Hi Dr.,

    Is scar tissue normal after an umbilical hernia surgery and how long does it take for the hardness to fully soften up? Is there anything I can do to speed up the process to help soften it?

    Also is tingling normal from incision site? How long dies it karst before it goes away? It’s not constant but it’s annoying when it happens. Thanks

    • Hi Jason,

      The hard scar tissue is totally normal. It usually softens up in 2-4 months or so. Scar tissue changes for up to two years but most of that change is in the first year. The itching is also normal healing. That should improve in about 2 months.

      -Dr. Buck

  22. I had umbilical hernia repair with mesh April 8 2013. Here it is 8 months later and I have severe pain and it looks like one of my incision scars is trying to bust open. What do I do?

    • Hi Brea,

      I think it’s probably best to see your doctor. It’s tough to tell what exactly is going on via email.

      Dr. Buck