An abdominal hernia is soft tissue that has pushed through the abdominal wall. An umbilical hernia is an abdominal 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.
The doctor will ask about your baby's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
An umbilical hernia can be diagnosed by a physical exam.
In most infants, an umbilical hernia will go away on its own as the baby develops. This is ususally within the first few years of life.
Persistent small hernias that do not cause symptoms may not need treatment. You and your doctor will watch the hernia to make sure new problems do not 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.
There are no current guidelines to prevent an umbilical hernia.
American College of Surgeons
American Society of General Surgeons
The Canadian Association of General Surgeons
Hernias of the abdominal wall. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/hernias-of-the-abdominal-wall. Updated June 2014. Accessed June 18, 2015.
Umbilical hernia in infants. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 10, 2014. Accessed June 18, 2015.