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What Is a Herniated Umbilical Cord?

Adults with liver disease or weak stomach muscles are most likely to have a herniated umbilical cord.
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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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A herniated umbilical cord is a condition in which the intestines push against the abdominal wall, resulting in a small bulge around the belly button. This condition can affect adults of any age, though it is frequently present since birth, and tends to appear most often in premature newborns. It may disappear on its own, which is why treatment is often delayed in infants until they are three or four years old. In fact, it does not even require treatment unless it is painful or overly large, as it does not usually pose a danger to the health of the patient.

The intestines typically grow faster than the abdominal cavity in an unborn baby, causing them to float outside the body in the umbilical cord for a short period of time. Once there is enough room in the stomach area, they usually return to the body, and the abdominal wall closes behind them. Umbilical hernias are caused when the wall does not close completely, allowing the intestines to push against it and create a visible bulge in the stomach after the baby is born. It usually looks more obvious when the baby cries, coughs, or does anything else to strain the abdominal muscles.

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In most cases, a herniated umbilical cord will close on its own within the first few years of the affected baby's life, which means that no treatment is necessary at first. If it does not close by the time the child is three years old, or it seems to get larger, surgery is often recommended. It is also advised if complications occur, such as strangulation, in which circulation to part of the intestine is cut off. The surgery involves cutting the area just below the navel and pushing the herniated tissue back. This treatment for a herniated umbilical cord usually takes less than two hours.

Adults can also get a herniated umbilical cord, though they may just be noticing it after years of having it since this defect is usually present from birth. The adults most likely to experience this problem include those who have liver disease, are overweight and have weak stomach muscles, pregnant, or have had several children. Just like in infants, the bulge created by the herniated umbilical cord often gets more obvious when the adult coughs or otherwise strains. Unfortunately, hernias do not usually close on their own when present in an adult, and they do tend to grow, which is why many adults opt for surgery to rectify it.

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fBoyle
Post 3

@alisha-- Whether surgery is required or not depends on the size of the hernia. If it's a large one, then surgery has to be done, it will not heal on its own. For very small hernias, surgery is not necessary.

I apparently had a herniated umbilical cord as a baby and my mom said that she taped a quarter on my abdomen, right on top of where the hernia was and it healed quickly. I don't know if there is any scientific basis for this method, but applying some pressure on it consistently might actually help. It's a good idea to check with a pediatrician first though.

discographer
Post 2

@simrin-- I don't think it's very common in adults.

My daughter has a herniated umbilical cord from birth. She's a year and a half old right now and the hernia is slowly healing. The doctor said that it can take a while and it certainly is. I'm not sure if it's different for adults, but if you don't have uncomfortable hernia symptoms, you should wait for it to heal on its own.

SteamLouis
Post 1

I developed a herniated umbilical cord after my pregnancy. My doctor wants to wait to see if it will heal on its own. If it doesn't, I will have to have surgery.

Has anyone else experienced this? Is it very rare?

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