Umbilical Hernias

Also known as: hernia.

What are umbilical hernias?

A hernia is a common abnormal bulge that is seen or felt when a organ or fatty tissue pushes through a weak spot or hole in muscle or connective tissue. When it occurs in the area of the belly button (umbilicus) it’s called an umbilical hernia, and it’s the intestines that push through the umbilical opening. In babies, umbilical hernias are present at birth and become more noticeable when the baby is crying, coughing or straining to pass a stool. Boys and girls are equally affected.

What causes umbilical hernias? 

Normally when the baby is developing in the uterus, there is a small opening in its abdominal muscle which allows the umbilical cord (which connects baby to mother) to pass through. After birth this opening usually closes (it may take up to 3 years). If the muscle doesn’t grow together completely, a small opening remains, which can allow the bowel to protrude through. African Americans, low birth weight and premature babies are at greater risk.

What are the symptoms of umbilical hernias? 

A swelling or a bulge in the belly button area which can be made smaller by gentle pushing is the typical presentation of an umbilical hernia. It is usually painless. If the bowel gets trapped (incarcerated hernia), it’s blood supply might become affected (strangulated) causing it to become tender, swollen and painful.

What are umbilical hernia care options? 

Many umbilical hernias close on their own by 3-4 years of age. If present after that age or if  it becomes strangulated, surgical correction is recommended.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/30/2018 7:43:09 AM

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