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Umbilical Hernia

What is an umbilical hernia?

A hernia is when there is an opening in the muscle wall and some of the intestines bulge through the muscle opening. In an umbilical hernia the navel area (belly button) is where the muscle opening is. The naval will bulge with crying or straining. The bulge may disappear when your baby is quiet. If you feel the area with your finger, you will feel a small round opening in the muscles of the abdominal wall. The hernia passes through this ring.

Umbilical hernias are very common (10-20% of children). Crying does not make them any bigger or last any longer. They are not painful and they never break. The opening in the muscles usually closes on its own by age 4 years.

How is it treated?

In most children, an umbilical hernia will go away by itself. In some cases, however, the hernia must be fixed by having an operation. Your child will probably need surgery if:

  • The opening is larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm) across.
  • Your child reaches age 4 and the hernia is still present.
  • The hernia becomes stuck and the swollen belly button can't be pushed back in. This is very rare. If it happens, your child will also be in pain, have some vomiting, and should be taken to the doctor as soon as possible.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-07
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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