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Fact: Less than 10% of inguinal hernias (by far the most common type) are caused by physically strenuous activity. The real culprit: weak abdominal walls that allow parts of your intestines to bulge outward when pressure's exerted on them. Blame genetics or previous surgeries for these weak spots. "Women who've had Cesarean sections, appendectomies, or similar surgeries are at higher risk because their abdominal muscles have been cut," says Richard Desi, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center's Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease in Baltimore. Chronic coughing, being overweight, and even straining during bowel movements can also lead to tears in the abdominal wall. Without surgery to fix the problem, the weakened area and the intestinal bulge will get bigger over time.