A hernia is soft tissue that has pushed through the abdominal wall. An umbilical hernia is a hernia through the belly button. They are very common in newborns.
Most umbilical hernias will not need treatment. Some will require surgery. Immediate medical attention is rarely required.
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During pregnancy, the umbilical cord passes from the mother to the baby through a small opening in the baby’s abdomen. A weakness in the abdomen occurs when the muscles of the baby’s abdomen do not completely close after birth. The weakness can cause abdominal tissue to push through the belly button.
Umbilical hernias in infants are more common in African American infants. Risk factors for any infant include:
- Premature birth
- Birth weight under 3.5 pounds (1,500 grams)
There are usually no symptoms associated with an umbilical hernia.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
An umbilical hernia can be diagnosed by a physical exam.
In most infants, umbilical hernias will go away on its own as the baby develops. It may go away within the first few years of life.
Small hernias that do not cause symptoms may not need treatment. You and your doctor will keep an eye on the hernia to make sure new problems don’t develop.
Large hernias or those causing symptoms will require additional care. For example:
- Very rarely a loop of intestine becomes trapped in the abdominal wall. This may lead to a blockage of the intestine.
- Strangulation can also occur if the hernia is slowing or blocking blood flow. A strangulated hernia is a medical emergency.
These conditions may require surgery to place dislocated tissue back in place and close damaged wall.
Umbilical hernias cannot be prevented.
American College of Surgeons
American Society of General Surgeons
The Canadian Association of General Surgeons
Hernias of the abdominal wall. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals website. Available at:
. Updated November 2012. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Umbilical hernia. Drugs Information Online website. Available at:
. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Umbilical hernia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated May 2, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2013.
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