Umbilical hernia (patient information)

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Umbilical hernia


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?


When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for umbilical hernia?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Hamid Qazi, MD, BSc [2]


An umbilical hernia is an outward bulging (protrusion) of the abdominal lining or part of the abdominal organ(s) through the area around the belly button.

What are the symptoms of Umbilical hernia?

A hernia can vary in width from less than 1 centimeter to more than 5 centimeters.

There is a soft swelling over the belly button that often bulges when the baby sits up, cries, or strains. The bulge may be flat when the infant lies on the back and is quiet.

What are the causes of Umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia in an infant occurs when the muscle through which blood vessels pass to feed the developing fetus doesn't close completely.

Who is at risk for Umbilical hernia?

How to know you have Umbilical hernia?

The doctor can find the hernia during a physical exam.

When to seek urgent medical care

Call your health care provider, or go to the emergency room if the infant is very fussy or seems to have bad abdominal pain, or if the hernia becomes tender, swollen, or discolored.

Treatment options

Usually, no treatment is needed unless the hernia continues past age 3 or 4. In very rare cases, bowel or other tissue can bulge out and lose its blood supply (become strangulated). This is an emergency needing surgery.

Where to find medical care for Umbilical hernia

Directions to Hospitals Treating Umbilical hernia

Prevention of Umbilical hernia

There is no known way to prevent an umbilical hernia. Taping or "strapping" an umbilical hernia will not make it go away.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)

Most umbilical hernias get better without treatment by the time the child is 3 - 4 years old. Those that do not close may need surgery. Umbilical hernias are usually painless.

Possible Complications

Strangulation of bowel tissue is rare but serious, and needs immediate surgery.


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