What is umbilical hernia?

Umbilical hernia in children: Overview

An umbilical hernia is a bulge near the belly button, or navel. Intestines or other tissues may bulge through an opening or a weak spot in the stomach muscles. The hernia has a sac that may hold some intestine, fat, or fluid. A baby can be born with a hernia. But parents may not notice it until the umbilical cord stump falls off, which may be a few days to a couple of weeks after birth. Usually, umbilical hernias are not painful or dangerous.

Most umbilical hernias close on their own without treatment, usually in a baby's first year or by age 4 or 5 years. A child usually needs surgery only if the hernia is very large or has not gone away by the time the child is 4 or 5. While you wait for the hernia to close, watch for signs of any problems. In rare cases, the hernia can trap some of the intestine and cut off its blood supply. If this happens, your baby needs treatment right away.

Umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia is a bulge in the abdominal wall near the navel (umbilicus) that sometimes contains abdominal tissue, a loop of intestine, fat, or fluid. An umbilical hernia may be present at birth or develop shortly thereafter.

Most of these hernias are noticed when babies are a few days or weeks old, after the umbilical cord stump falls off. But infants and toddlers can get them too. In most cases, they heal without treatment. Sometimes surgery is needed.

Adults can have umbilical hernias too. They are more common in women and people who are obese. And treatment is usually needed.

An umbilical hernia usually is not painful or dangerous.

Hernias can vary in size from less than 0.4 in. (1 cm) to more than 1.6 in. (4.1 cm) across but are rarely more than 0.8 in. (2 cm) across.

What are the symptoms of an umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia can usually be seen after the umbilical cord stump falls off, within a few weeks after birth. But some children don't get a hernia until they're a little older.

When a child has an umbilical hernia:

  • You may notice a soft bulge under the skin of the belly button.
  • The doctor can push part of the bulge back in.
  • The bulge may be easier to see when your child sits or stands upright or strains stomach muscles during normal activities such as crying, coughing, or having a bowel movement.

Umbilical hernias can vary in size. They are rarely bigger than about 1 in. (2.5 cm) across. Most children don't feel pain from the hernia.

Talk to your doctor if your child is vomiting, has pain, or has a swollen belly.

How is an umbilical hernia treated?

Umbilical hernias in babies often close by themselves before the baby is 1 year old. If the hernia hasn't closed by age 4, surgery may be needed. Surgery is needed right away if the hernia is causing pain or is trapping part of the intestines.

How is an umbilical hernia diagnosed?

Doctors usually can tell that a child has an umbilical hernia by how the belly looks. If your child has a hernia, your doctor will check its size and shape and see whether the hernia can be pushed back in.

The doctor will want to check your child regularly to see if the hernia has begun to close. Be sure to bring your child in for these checkups.

How can you care for your child's umbilical hernia?

  • Watch for any signs that the hernia may be causing problems. Your baby's belly may get bigger, and the skin over the hernia may look red. Your baby may cry a lot and throw up. Call your doctor right away if you see these signs.

What is an umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia happens when intestine, fat, or fluid pushes through a weak spot or hole in your baby's stomach muscles. This causes a bulge near or in the belly button, or navel. It may look like your child's belly button is swollen.

Many children have an umbilical hernia at birth. The hernia usually isn't painful or dangerous, and it often closes on its own without treatment.

What causes an umbilical hernia?

The ring of muscle and other tissue that forms where blood vessels in the umbilical cord enter a fetus's body is known as the umbilical ring. This ring usually closes before the baby is born. If it doesn't close, tissue may bulge through the opening, creating a hernia.

Experts don't know why the hole sometimes doesn't close.

Umbilical hernia: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You vomit.
  • You cannot pass stool or gas.
  • You can't push the hernia back into place with gentle pressure when you are lying down.
  • The area over the hernia turns red or becomes tender.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.