What is umbilical hernia?
An umbilical hernia occurs when part of the intestine protrudes through the umbilical opening in the abdominal muscles. Umbilical hernias are common and typically harmless. They are most common in infants, but they can affect adults as well. In an infant, an umbilical hernia may be especially evident when the infant cries, causing the baby’s bellybutton to protrude.
An umbilical hernia appears as a painless lump in or near the navel (belly button).
It may get bigger when laughing, coughing, crying or going to the toilet and may shrink when relaxing or lying down. In many cases, the umbilical hernia goes back in and the muscles reseal before the child’s first birthday. Umbilical hernias can also develop in adults. Without treatment, the hernia will probably get worse over time.
How common is umbilical hernia?
This umbilical hernia can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of umbilical hernia?
An umbilical hernia creates a soft swelling or bulge near the navel (umbilicus). If your baby has an umbilical hernia, you may notice the bulge only when he or she cries, coughs or strains. The bulge may disappear when your baby is calm or lies on his or her back.
Umbilical hernias in children are usually painless. Adults can get umbilical hernias as well. The symptoms are the same — a swelling or bulge near the navel area that can be very painful. Umbilical hernias that appear during adulthood may cause abdominal discomfort.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:
- Your baby appears to be in pain.
- Your baby begins to vomit.
- The bulge becomes tender, swollen or discolored.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes umbilical hernia?
During pregnancy, the umbilical cord passes through a small opening in the baby’s abdominal muscles. The opening normally closes just after birth. If the muscles don’t join together completely in the midline of the abdomen, this weakness in the abdominal wall may cause an umbilical hernia at birth or later in life. An umbilical hernia can develop when fatty tissue or a part of the bowel pokes through into an area near the navel.
In adults, too much abdominal pressure can cause an umbilical hernia. Possible causes in adults include:
What increases my risk for umbilical hernia?
Umbilical hernias are most common in infants — especially premature babies and those with low birth weights. Black infants appear to have a slightly increased risk of umbilical hernias. The condition affects boys and girls equally.
For adults, the risk factors include:
- Being women;
- Being overweight;
- Frequent pregnancies;
- Multiple gestation pregnancies (having twins, triplets, etc.);
- Fluid in the abdominal cavity;
- Stomach surgery;
- Having a persistent, heavy cough;
- Straining while moving or lifting heavy objects.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is umbilical hernia diagnosed?
A doctor will perform a physical exam to determine if an infant or adult has an umbilical hernia. The doctor will take a look if the hernia can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity (reducible). They will also examine the baby or adult to determine if the umbilical cord is trapped, or incarcerated. This is a serious complication because the trapped part of the intestine may be deprived of a blood supply.
Your doctor may take an X-ray or perform an ultrasound on the stomach area to ensure that there are no complications. They may order blood tests to look for infections, especially if the intestine is blocked or incarcerated.
How is umbilical hernia treated?
Most umbilical hernias in babies close on their own by age 1 or 2. Your doctor may even be able to push the bulge back into the abdomen during a physical exam. Don’t try this on your own, however. Although some people claim a hernia can be fixed by taping a coin down over the bulge, this “fix” doesn’t help and germs may accumulate under the tape, causing infection.
For children, surgery is typically reserved for umbilical hernias that:
- Are painful;
- Are bigger than 1.5 centimeters in diameter (slightly larger than a 1/2 inch);
- Are large and don’t decrease in size over the first two years;
- Don’t disappear by age 4;
- Become trapped or block the intestines;
- Blood supply to the intestine is affected.
For adults, surgery is typically recommended to avoid possible complications — especially if the umbilical hernia gets bigger or becomes painful.
During surgery, a small incision is made at the base of the bellybutton. The herniated tissue is returned to the abdominal cavity, and the opening in the abdominal wall is stitched closed. In adults, surgeons often use mesh to help strengthen the abdominal wall.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage umbilical hernia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with umbilical hernia:
- If you’re overweight, lose weight
- Do not try to move or lift heavy objects
- If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Umbilical hernia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/umbilical-hernia/basics/definition/con-20025630. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Umbilical Hernia. http://www.healthline.com/health/umbilical-hernia#Overview1. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Umbilical hernia repair. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Umbilicalhernia/Pages/Whatisitpage.aspx. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Umbilical hernia repair. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002935.htm. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Umbilical Hernia in Children – Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/umbilical-hernia-in-children-topic-overview#1. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017