How Hernias Present in Women

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Sports hernia in women can go undiagnosed for months, or even years. A hernia occurs when an area in the abdominal wall becomes thin, weak, or separated, allowing the internal organs, such as the small intestines, to push through. The hernia may cause bearable bouts of severe abdominal and pelvic pain.

Young fit sporty woman clutching her abdomen with painful face expression
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Hernia Symptoms in Women

The symptoms of hernias in women are quite different from those experienced by men. One difference is the location. In women, the hernia is frequently deeper in the body and therefore less visible than in men.

A woman with a hernia often has chronic deep pelvic pain or bouts of acute, stabbing pain that come on quickly and linger. Researchers have indicated that symptoms often point the physician in the wrong direction, and women are initially diagnosed with everything from endometriosis to cysts or fibroids.

Getting a correct hernia diagnosis is more difficult in women because these hernias are often very small and deep in the abdomen. Because of this, women's hernias rarely cause any bulging on the skin, which is the classic hernia sign in men.


Although most hernias in women are initially believed to be from other problems, realizing that hernia symptoms are unique can make obtaining a correct diagnosis easier.

The more specific you can be when describing your specific hernia pain sensations—including burning, pinching, and shooting pains in the pelvis or groin—the more likely you will receive a correct diagnosis more quickly. Explaining what situations cause or increase pain or what makes it go away can also be a great help for the physician.

Activities that cause the internal abdominal pressure to increase, such as lifting weights or exercising, coughing, laughing and even straining in the bathroom, can all sign the physician will recognize as a possible hernia. (This advice is useful for any pains you may experience, not just hernia pain.)

Describing pain in a very broad or general way makes it much more difficult for the physician to pinpoint the cause. It's critical to describe any pain you experience as precisely as possible.

Once the symptoms lead to a possible hernia diagnosis in women, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is the best imaging tool to help confirm the diagnosis.


Conservative treatment methods include medications and physical therapy and may improve pain management or control the symptoms. Physical therapists may use myofascial release techniques to help reduce or alleviate muscle spasms that increase hernia pain.

If conservative treatments fail to improve symptoms, laparoscopic surgery is generally used to repair the hernia. This procedure repairs the weakened area of the abdominal wall. Most women heal from laparoscopic surgery quickly—in one to two weeks—and are able to resume all sports and activities with no lingering pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are pregnancy hernias common?

    No. About 0.08% of women get the most common type of pregnancy hernia, an umbilical hernia. Other types of hernias related to pregnancy, ventral hernias and inguinal, are even less common.

  • Can an inguinal hernia go away on its own?

    No. An inguinal hernia (a hernia in the groin) may not need to be treated if it's not causing you discomfort or complications. But if you want it to go away, you'll need surgery.

  • What are signs that a hernia is an emergency?

    If the bulge from the hernia doesn’t become smaller when you lie down and the tissue is deep red or purple, you may have a strangulated hernia, which could cause tissue death and requires immediate medical attention. Other signs of danger to look out for include worsening pain, nausea, difficulty having a bowel movement, bloating, fever, and a racing heart rate.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Köckerling F, Koch A, Lorenz R. Groin hernias in women—a review of the literature. Front Surg. 2019;6:4. doi:10.3389/fsurg.2019.00004

  2. Kulacoglu H. Umbilical hernia repair and pregnancy: before, during, after... Front Surg. 2018;0. doi:10.3389%2Ffsurg.2018.00001

  3. University of Michigan Health. Inguinal Hernia: Should I Have Surgery Now, or Should I Wait? Updated April 15, 2020.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. How to Tell If You Have a Hernia.

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