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An umbilical hernia is soft tissue that has pushed through the belly button. They are common in newborns.
Most will not need treatment. Those that do may need surgery.
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A hernia is caused by a weakness in the belly wall. In this case, the muscles of the baby’s belly do not close tightly around the belly button. When pressure increases in the belly, soft tissue can poke out through the opening. It can most often happen when the baby cries.
These hernias are more common in African American infants. Other factors that may increase the risk of umbilical hernias include:
- Premature birth
- Birth weight under 3.5 pounds (1,500 grams)
This type of hernia does not cause symptoms often. You may see a bulge around the belly button when your baby cries.
You will be asked about your baby's symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor make the diagnosis based on the exam.
For most, the hernia will go away on its own as the baby grows. It will often heal within the first few years of life.
Small hernias that continue but do not cause symptoms may not need treatment either. You and your doctor will continue to check on the hernia. This will help to treat any new problems early.
Treatment may be need for hernias that are large or causing problems. For example:
- A loop of intestine can become trapped. This can cause a blockage of the intestine.
- The tissue can also become squeezed in the belly opening. If it blocks blood flow to the tissue it is called a strangulated hernia. This is a medical emergency.
Surgery may be needed to do one or both of the following:
- Tissue is pushed back in place. The belly wall is closed.
- Damaged tissue may need to be removed.
American College of Surgeons
American Society of General Surgeons
The Canadian Association of General Surgeons
Pediatric umbilical hernia repair. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/pediatricumbilical.ashx. Updated April 2013.
Umbilical cord care. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthychildren.org website. Available at: https://healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/Pages/Umbilical-Cord-Care.aspx. Updated November 2009. Accessed May 26, 2018.
Umbilical hernia in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115363/Umbilical-hernia-in-infants-and-children. Updated December 20, 2017. Accessed May 26, 2018.
- Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 05/2018
- Update Date: 05/26/2018