Hernias can be thought of as essentially internal organs in the wrong place. For instance, the brain can herniate through the foramen magnum, which would be a bad thing, killing you. More typically, we think of hernias in the abdomen whereby its contents push thru the abdominal wall, most commonly in the inguinal (groin) region, umbilicus (belly button), or a previous incision (from surgery). With both the inguinal & umbilical areas, there once was a passage way of sources, a hole if you will, early on during our fetal development. The former allows for testes to descend into the scrotum while the latter allows for the umbilical cord & its contents to pass thru. Once our fetal development is completed, those holes should close off. However, with enough repeat pressure, the hole can open up & voila! A hernia develops. Of course, if you need abdominal surgery, the surgeon makes a hole in the abdominal wall and closes it up afterward. However, with enough pressure over time, it's possible to break down the closure and open up a hole. The reason hernias are dangerous is that the abdominal contents can get stuck (incarcerated) and lose their blood supply (strangulated) for which surgical repair is the only solution. Typically hernias are relatively painless early on. However, once they become incarcerated and God-forbid strangulated, they're pretty painful until surgically repaired.
Contrast this w/diastasis rectus as described by RxBlogger. Always painfree. Nothing can ever get trapped or lose blood supply so there's really no medical/surgical reason for surgical repair. Only if bothers you from a psychological perspective would you elect plastic surgery. BTW, inguinal hernias can be in the groin and if left alone, can sometimes descend into the scrotum (depending upon the hernia type). Umbilical hernias are typically a lump around the belly button. On the other hand, diastasis rectus is typically a long bulge down the midline, made more visible during situps or getting up off the sofa or out of bed (you tend to hold your breath as you transition), although this movement could also make any hernia more prominent. If there's any question as to what you have, go see your family doc. S/he can tell you which you have w/quick physical exam.
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