Why Is My Stomach Bigger After Hernia Surgery?

Written by: Jessica Guht Reviewed by: Amy Dougherty, FNP-BC, AGAC
Jessica Guht
Categorized as Health
Jessica Guht
Categorized as Health

Hernia surgery is a way to return a part of the gut and abdominal contents into the spot they should be in. While it is a common surgery, it does require cutting through layers of skin and muscle. As a response to the incisions, the body promotes the spread of healing fluids to the surgical site, which can appear as swelling. 

Additionally, as the body heals, it is crucial to focus on protecting the bowels, as they can easily become bloated due to trapped air. Between swelling and bloating, it is common for the stomach to appear larger after hernia surgery. These symptoms typically last 3 to 6 months, but certain activities can help to reduce swelling and bloating while aiding the body as it heals. 

Is Swelling Normal After Hernia Surgery?

It is normal for the surgical site to swell following hernia surgery, and it will often feel like a firm ridge. Many people feel this hard ridge or lump and are concerned that their hernia has returned, but it is typically only swelling and will go away within a few weeks or months. 

For most patients who have received hernia surgery, most of their swelling goes away within the first few weeks of recovery. However, certain factors such as daily habits, excess fluid accumulation, poor diet, underlying health issues, and the size, type, and extent of the repair can affect the time it takes for swelling to subside. 

In very rare cases, swelling after a hernia surgery may be a sign of a complication, such as a hernia recurrence of infection. If pain and swelling are accompanied by reddening of the skin, this may be a sign of an infection. 

What Causes Swelling After Hernia Surgery?

During the hernia procedure, the surgeon will make incisions in multiple layers of skin and muscle before placing the gut and abdominal contents causing the bulge back into their proper place. When the body undergoes surgery such as this, though, it reacts through swelling to keep itself safe. 

When the body begins healing, it produces extra fluid to help with the healing process. The fluid contains nutrients and cells that help the tissues repair themselves, and when the fluid arrives at the injured site, it can look like swelling. However, when this fluid sits in one area for a few days, it can become hard. This is why many people may feel a hard lump or ridge near the incision site following their hernia surgery. 

How Long Does Bloating Last After Hernia Surgery?

In addition to swelling, it is also common for the stomach to appear larger after hernia surgery due to bloating. 

There are many reasons for this bloating. For example, air is often added to the abdominal cavity so that it is large enough for the surgeon to perform the surgery. While the surgeon attempts to remove as much air as possible, some air may remain trapped. This air releases naturally during the recovery process, but while the air is still trapped, it can often appear as bloating. 

How to Reduce Swelling After Hernia Surgery?

The following at-home remedies can help to reduce swelling after hernia surgery.

Apply Ice

If you are experiencing swelling after your hernia surgery, try applying ice packs for up to 15 minutes per hour. This can be completed for multiple days until the swelling has gone down. 

Follow a Healthy Diet

Avoiding foods that cause gas can go a long way in preventing abdominal discomfort and distention following hernia surgery. Focus on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, with berries, avocados, ginger, cucumbers, and bananas foods that are full of vitamins and nutrients that help prevent gas and bloating. 

Additionally, try to avoid spicy and greasy foods, artificial sweeteners, dairy products, and sodas, as these foods and beverages are common causes of bloating. 

Stay Active

Immediately following hernia surgery, your doctor may limit the amount of physical activity that is safe to complete, but walking is typically encouraged in all patients post-operation. 

By staying active through walking, you are helping to support the healing process. However, it is essential to avoid straining the body, and you should always listen to your body to avoid overexertion. 

Promote Regular Bowel Movements

Healthy bowel function is an important component of preventing discomfort, gas, and bloating. Anesthesia, surgery, and medications can slow down the digestive system, causing constipation, so it is essential to focus on promoting regular bowel movements following your surgery. 

Focus on a diet high in fiber to aid the digestive system, and get regular physical activity to keep the digestive system moving. If you are still struggling to perform regular bowel movements, stool softeners can help to prevent constipation and keep things regular.

When to See a Doctor?

Swelling may take some time to go away. However, if there is still swelling three months after surgery, it is often recommended to seek a reevaluation by the surgical team to determine if the hernia has returned. 

If the swelling is accompanied by red skin around the surgical site, this may be a sign of an infection and should be checked by the surgical team. 

It is important to monitor the surgical site of a hernia repair and bring it to a doctor’s attention if any of the following issues appear:

  • burning pain
  • hard lumps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • numbness and decreased sensitivity
  • excess fatigue
  • sexual dysfunction

Additionally, if the swelling becomes more pronounced instead of decreasing in size, it is recommended to discuss this with a doctor. 

Get Help From an Online Doctor

An online doctor is a valuable resource for those with swelling, bloating, or other symptoms following a hernia surgery. Online doctors, such as those found in the DrHouse app, are especially beneficial for those recovering from surgery since they provide a doctor’s guidance without having to leave the house. 

Key Takeaways

Swelling and bloating are often common side effects of hernia repair surgery, making the stomach appear larger than it is. The swelling and bloating can last for a while, sometimes up to six months following the surgery. 

There are some actions that can be taken to reduce swelling and aid healing, such as applying ice, focusing on a healthy diet, staying active, and promoting regular bowel movements. However, the most important thing to reduce swelling is rest and time. 

If the swelling persists for three months or longer, appears to get more pronounced, or is accompanied by redness around the incision site, it is recommended to visit a doctor. An online doctor is an appealing option for those recovering from surgery as it allows them to gain a medical opinion without having to leave the house. 


DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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