What you need to know about umbilical hernia

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You might have noticed a bulge at your child’s navel. This bulge sometimes disappear when he lie down and becomes prominent while crying, coughing or straining. You then wonder what this is and what might be the cause. Sometimes children wallow in pain when this bulge becomes prominent. This is umbilical hernia. 

About umbilical hernia

While a baby is in the womb, he receives nutrients from the mother through the placenta. The umbilical cord attaches the baby to the placenta and the placenta attaches itself to the womb. This umbilical cord is attached to the baby at the navel. After delivery the cord is no longer needed as the baby begins to feed through the mouth, the opening inside the navel through which the cord sends nutrient to the organs of the baby then closes. In some babies, it does not close immediately, rather it closes around 1 year. In few percentage of these children, it may refuse to close and forms a bulge at the navel. This is called umbilical hernia.

The sizes of the opening usually vary. Some may be large enough to allow the intestine to pass through. If this happens, it may bring about discomfort for the child. A lot of times the intestine swims back itself into the tommy of the child, although in some it may need to be reduced before it does.  In some children, the intestine refuses to go back after all effort at reducing it. At this stage, it is an emergency. The child will require urgent surgical intervention in other to prevent shortage of blood and oxygen supply to the intestine.

What causes umbilical hernia in children?

As said earlier, after birth the hole through which nutrients passes from the umbilical cord to the organs of the baby usually closes. In  children with umbilical hernia, this refuses to close.

The reason why this refuses to close is unknown.

When you should see your physician

  • If your child start to have high temperature.
  • If there is pain at the navel of your child.
  • If your child is vomiting.
  • If the bulge becomes swollen or hard.
  • If you are unable to reduce the hernia.
  • Before age 5, it is expected to have closed, therefore if this hole refuses to close by 5 years, you should see your doctor.


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Dr Kay
About Dr Kay 58 Articles
As a physician, I love to give answers to several questions bothering people, educating them on how to be healthy, breaking down what their present condition is all about and counselling them on how to manage their condition.

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