Umbilical Hernias: A Common Problem in Infants and Adults

The distinction of having an “innie” or “outie” belly button is something we often notice about ourselves or our children soon after they are born. A majority of people around the world have an innie belly button, but outies are incredibly common as well. The cause for concern about an outie belly button is when that outward bulge is actually a medical condition known as an umbilical hernia.

How an Umbilical Hernia Develops

Umbilical hernias are named for the vital cord that physically ties a mother to her growing baby during pregnancy. This cord delivers important nutrient that supports fetal development, and is eventually cut almost immediately once the child is born.

Many parents are familiar with the detailed instructions given by their doctor about how to care for this newly cut cord in the first few weeks of their baby’s life. Ideally, the umbilical cord stump should dry out and fall off, but complications can occur if the abdominal muscles do not properly heal during this process.

Belly of a small child with umbilical hernia

Not Every Umbilical Hernia Needs Treatment

Most umbilical hernias will resolve themselves over time as the abdominal muscles continue to develop and become much stronger over time. Parents can expect to see the following symptoms in an infant that has an umbilical hernia:

  • Swelling near the belly button
  • A visible bulge at the belly button
  • Changes in shape or texture of the bulge when the child cries, coughs, or strains the abdominal muscles in any way

Umbilical hernias are rarely painful, so do not worry too much about your little one’s discomfort. They are unlikely to even notice it is there at all! While parents should consult their physician about abnormalities in this area, they should not be alarmed unless these more serious symptoms occur:

  • Extreme swelling
  • Tenderness or pain of the belly button
  • Discoloration of the skin around the belly button
  • Vomiting from the infant

These may be signs of a strangulated or incarcerated hernia, which means the blood supply to the intestines may be compromised and needs to be treated immediately. The surgical procedure used to repair an infant’s umbilical hernia does not often require extensive measures, and most children will recover in a short period of time after their hernia has been addressed.

What About Adults?

A majority of umbilical hernia cases will affect newborns, though they may also affect adults of any age. This most commonly occurs when the individual:

  • Has experienced multiple pregnancies, especially if they took place soon after one another
  • Is overweight
  • Has excess fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • Experiences a forceful, persistent cough
  • Has previously undergone surgery of the abdomen

These instances increases a person’s risk for suffering an abdominal injury because they each put a substantial amount of pressure on the abdominal wall. This wall consists of many muscles and other tissues that are essential for holding our core in proper position. Recurring stress on these muscles can lead them to become more weak and prone to developing various types of hernias.

Compared to infants, adults are likely to experience many of the same symptoms already discussed above. However, umbilical hernias in full grown individuals are often associated with more pain than they are with newborns, and usually require surgical treatment.

If you are concerned about a strange bulge or pain around your belly button, come see an expert at Michigan Hernia Surgery to receive an accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment options from our specialists! We also offer minimally invasive treatments for many different types of hernias, so our staff can provide quality care for patients from start to finish. Call 248.551.9090 or submit an appointment request online today!