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Health Information For Parents
An umbilical hernia happens when part of a child’s intestines bulges through the abdominal wall inside the belly button. It shows up as a bump under the belly button. The hernia isn’t painful and most don’t cause any problems.
Most umbilical (um-BILL-ih-kul) hernias close on their own by the time the child turns 4 or 5. If a hernia doesn’t go away by then or causes problems, doctors may recommend surgery.
A hernia is when part of the intestine bulges through the muscle wall that’s supposed to hold it in place. With an umbilical hernia, the opening is in the middle of the belly button, at a part of the abdominal wall called the umbilical ring.
The umbilical ring is a muscle that surrounds the belly button. During pregnancy, the umbilical cord flows through the umbilical ring to bring blood and nutrients to the developing baby. The umbilical ring should close shortly after birth. If it doesn’t close correctly, the intestines can poke through. This can cause a bulge near the belly button, especially when the baby cries, coughs, or strains.
Umbilical hernias are most common in newborns and infants younger than 6 months old. About 20% of babies have one. But older kids and adults can get them too.
The main sign of an umbilical hernia is a visible bump under the skin by the belly button.
The hernia can get bigger and smaller:
Doctors diagnose an umbilical hernia by looking and feeling for a bump or swelling in the belly button area. The bump usually will get bigger when the baby cries and get smaller or go away when the baby relaxes or rests on the back.
The doctor may gently try to massage the hernia back into its proper place in the abdomen. A hernia that can be massaged back into place is called a “reducible” hernia. This shows that the intestine isn’t stuck (“incarcerated”) in the muscle wall opening.
Most umbilical hernias are nothing to worry about, and go away without medical treatment by the time a child is 4–5 years old. Surgery is done only if:
To operate, doctors will:
Kids sometimes need emergency surgery if the intestine is not reducible. This means it is stuck in the muscle wall, which can damage the intestines.
At home, you can push the hernia back in, but don’t put tape or anything else on the hernia to hold it in. This won’t make it go away, and may cause problems like infection.
Umbilical hernias usually close on their own without surgery. Keep an eye on the hernia to see if it changes.
Call the doctor if your child still has the hernia after turning 5 years old. Call right away if:
Hernias are fairly common in kids, and hernia repair is one of the most common pediatric surgeries.
An inguinal hernia happens when part of the intestines pushes through an opening in the lower part of the abdomen. Doctors fix these hernias with surgery.
An epigastric hernia is when part of the intestines pushes through the abdominal muscles between the belly button and the chest. Many are small, cause no symptoms, and don’t need treatment.
A hernia is an opening or weakness in the wall of a muscle, tissue, or membrane that normally holds an organ in place. Learning to prevent hernias isn’t hard to do – check out these tips.
When you first meet your newborn, you may be surprised by what you see. Here’s what to expect.
A hydrocele is a pouch of fluid around the testicle inside the scrotum. Hydroceles are common in newborns, especially preemies.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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