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A to Z: Hernia, Umbilical

An umbilical hernia is a hernia that happens when part of the intestines bulges through the abdominal wall next to the belly button.

More to Know

A hernia is an opening or weakness in the wall of a muscle, tissue, or membrane that normally holds an organ in place. If the opening or weakness is large enough, a portion of the organ may be able to poke through the hole. With an umbilical hernia, the opening is found near the belly button, at a part of the abdominal wall called the umbilical ring.

The umbilical ring is a muscle that surrounds the belly button. During pregnancy, the umbilical cord flows through the umbilical ring to deliver blood and nutrients to the developing baby. The umbilical ring normally closes shortly after birth. If the muscle doesn't close correctly, the intestines can poke through. This can cause a bulge near the belly button, especially when someone cries, coughs, or strains.

Umbilical hernias are most common in newborns and infants under 6 months, but they can also affect older kids and adults. They usually heal on their own by the time a baby is 1 year old. Surgery is only necessary if the hernia is very large; grows in size after age 1 or 2; fails to heal by age 4 or 5; or if blood flow to the part of the intestine sticking out gets cut off.

Keep in Mind

In most instances, an umbilical hernia causes no pain or problems and usually closes up on its own by age 2. Surgery is rarely necessary and long-term complications are rare, but any suspected hernia should be examined by a doctor.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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