What is a Belly Button Hernia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A belly button hernia, more properly known as an umbilical hernia, is a type of abdominal hernia which occurs in the region of the navel. When this type of hernia develops, the intestines push through the abdominal wall behind the belly button, causing a characteristic bulge to appear. Many belly button hernias are congenital in nature, and they are especially common in boys of African descent. This type of hernia can also be acquired by adults.

Umbilical hernias are common in boys of African descent.
Umbilical hernias are common in boys of African descent.

The navel region is vulnerable to herniation in infants because of the way in which the body develops, and because of the nature of the umbilicus. In some cases, the abdominal wall behind the navel fails to close completely during fetal development, allowing intestines to push through and create a hernia. The hernia may only be visible when an infant cries or strains, subsiding back into the abdomen when the baby relaxes. It is usually identified shortly after birth, since newborn infants tend to strenuously object to being pushed out into the world, making their hernias rather prominent.

Infants are vulnerable to developing umbilical hernias.
Infants are vulnerable to developing umbilical hernias.

Unlike other hernia types, a belly button hernia often resolves itself. In infants, the hernia may disappear by age one, and definitely by age four in most cases. If the hernia continues to be present after this point, it may require surgical correction. The hernia is also prone to complications such as strangulation, in which the blood supply to the herniated intestines is cut off, causing tissue death. If a baby has a belly button hernia, a doctor may recommend close monitoring for the early signs of a problem.

In adults, a belly button hernia appears as a result of strain.
In adults, a belly button hernia appears as a result of strain.

In adults, this type of hernia appears as a result of strain. As in infants, the hernia presents as a lump behind the navel which causes a bulge which may vary in size depending on the position of the patient and whether or not the patient is straining or tensing. In adults, this hernia should be corrected surgically to avoid the possibility of complications.

For those who feel like throwing around some medical terminology, this hernia is also known as an “exomphalos,” literally “out navel,” in a reference to the fact that the navel pushes out from the body as a result of the herniation. This kind of hernia should not be confused with an “outie” belly button, a perfectly normal physical feature. A herniated navel will protrude much more than an outie belly button, and it may be accompanied by pain and soreness, especially in adults.

Unlike other hernias, a belly button hernia will often resolve itself.
Unlike other hernias, a belly button hernia will often resolve itself.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I became morbidly obese over the last two years, and now have a massive bulging belly button hernia. Is there any way to repair it?


I am 26 years old, and I have had a belly button hernia since birth, but had a surgical operation on it when I was 19. It didn't seem to work properly because my navel is still protruding and when I cough, it becomes even bigger. Please, does anyone know what I can do about it?


I'm 45 going on 46 and have a BBH. It was painful at first then it subsided. I could push it like a button and feel the soft stuff inside go back and forth. Then after a bowel movement, I had some pretty good pain then the soft button became hard and is painful and reddish. It looks like it pushed out further. I'm not sure how to handle it, with a seasonal job and no insurance.


I'm 14 and a couple of days ago I was playing rough in my pool. I was jumping and stretching my stomach area and the next night, I had a small bulge under my belly button. I was scared I was pregnant, but I've never had sex or a menstrual cycle. I've been having pain now in my upper stomach and abdomen. Should I contact my doctor?


I have belly button hernia, from being pregnant. My last child born is now 16 months and I've been working out five to six days a week and it seems my "hernia" is kind of going away. It is a bump or soft spot right on and above my belly button. Does anyone know if it will completely go away? Can muscle build up so it won't show?


Well I'm 25 years old and I just had the surgery for the umbilical hernia a few days ago, and my belly button doesn't look that pretty looking after surgery. And surgery is really painful. And I'm really itching after it. So I have my update appointment to see the doctor this Monday.


I apparently have a belly button hernia, because my belly button now protrudes big time to about the size of a silver dollar. It doesn't hurt or ooze anything, but I think it looks terrible. I am 5'8" tall at 174 lbs. I am 64 years old and a little heavy around the middle. Is there any chance that this will fix itself?


I thought my belly button just became an outie because I got fat, but my husband noticed the protrusion through my blouse and informed me that I have a hernia.

I went to see a surgeon today and he confirmed it is a large hernia and said that because I have a purple line running through it, that indicates that my skin is dying. Therefore, he said that I may not have a belly button after surgery -- just closed up skin since he will have to remove the "dead" parts.

I have had on occasion the foul smelling discharge in it, which I did not think to ask him about. I just remembered it after reading the above posts. Now I wonder if the foul smell was from my skin dying?


Just had surgery Tuesday. mine was so big you could put your fist through it!


I just found out I have a hernia at my belly button. My belly button protruded during my pregnancy and never went back in. I just thought this was typical. My doctor commented on it during a recent physical. He pressed it in and it popped right back out. So far, no pain, and the doctor said i should keep an eye on it.


I am a 68 year old male and a couple of years ago I noticed my belly button was like a dome shape outwards. I spoke to my doctor and she said not to worry unless it got bigger or became painful. I now feel an itchy pain in it and wonder should I bother my doc.


i am 34 weeks pregnant and have a belly button hernia. My doctor is referring me for surgery but it will be after the baby is born. Does anyone know if this will help me get a c section?


i had a belly button hernia during my pregnancy but now my belly button is half in and half out and i really can't stand it. is there any way i can push my belly button in. Not long ago, I had a ultrasound and the hernia was so small. i just want a normal belly button again.


I have an odor on the outside of my navel on my stomach. It gets red and comes with a discharge that has a strong odor.

No pain but I can feel it's there. I am a 78 year old women and concerned. Had this years ago off and on, but it would go away. For the last month it has returned. What to do?


I just had twins and also got a herniated belly button during the pregnancy. It causes me discomfort occasionally, mostly when I'm doing physical work or a lot of bending. I'm meeting with a surgeon tomorrow to see about getting it fixed.


I am 46 and for the past three or four months, I've noticed a bulge above my belly button. I didn't think much about it until I showed my wife, who happens to be an RN. She said it was a classic sign of a hernia.

As long as it is not life threatening, I will wait until my next doctor's appointment to let my doctor know. I can't wait to see what he has to say.


My one year old grandson was born with a normal belly button, but in the last two months his belly button is protruding. Would an innie belly button turn into an outie belly button or does he have a herniated belly button? It does not look right to me. Any help out there?


i also have a umbilical hernia and my GP has referred to me to a consultation at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. However, I'm slightly optimistic as to whether they are going to operate. i so desperately want this operation as it only occurred during my first pregnancy almost three years ago. it causes pain and discomfort and severe constipation at times. i will update you all.


I'm suffering from a belly-button hernia and I'm 24 weeks pregnant. I'm in so much pain that i can hardly walk and sit, it also makes my back hurt. Sometimes all i want to do is stay in bed and not move because of it. The doctors keep telling me that they can't do anything until i have my baby.

Is there any kind of relief for this? i have been rubbing it gently for it to go back down but as soon as i get up I'm in pain again. please help.


I have a belly button hernia and it's very sore every now and then. With all these comments about surgery and doctor comments, I don't know if I should get it repaired.

My dad has had one for five years now and it's huge and hurts him all the time but they won't do an operation because he is overweight.

What should I do? I want to be able to pick up heavy things in the future without hurting. I don't think that the mesh surgery helps. My uncle had a mesh put in his belly and he had to go in every year and have it fixed.

Please, somebody who knows what they are talking about, please tell me what I should do. Thanks everyone for your comments. They are a little bit helpful.


I have a navel hernia and my family physician will be sending me to a surgeon. I have a discharge sometimes from mine and it smells terrible. How is this possible. Does anyone know.


i have an outie belly button but not an umbilical hernia.


I have a belly button hernia, but I just found out, thought I was getting fat but the doctor tells me it's swollen. He is sending me back to my primary physician so he can send me to a surgeon.

I have no idea what to expect and I've had way too many surgeries. Do I really have to go through it again? Oh and I look about four months pregnant because of it, my belly button's an outtie and nasty looking and I'm only 40 years old!


I have a serious problem, sometimes i have a pain inside my belly button, doctors says after seeing a ultrasound that I have a umbilical hernia, but no signs of protrusion at all. Is it worth to have a surgery? How close or far from having a strangulation? Twice a month a feel the pain, twice a day, for a week and then disappears. should I have a surgery. can someone give me an opinion?


I have a umbilical hernia. My doctor tells me they don't do anything about them, that this type is not serious. I am 56 years old. When I go to the doctor, I go there to get a problem fixed. not to hear them say to live with it and it's not prone to complications such as strangulation. after i eat it will sometimes get very hard if i get gassy. milk is one thing that causes it to get hard. what can i do?


Is most of why hernias not being repaired until it becomes a life and death story, is because there is no true way of repairing a hernia?

The old tension method may hold up to maybe 5-6 years depending on how a person treats their body, after the first repair.

I know after my first repair the surgeon never said anything about not going back to doing medium to heavy work. His words were that my body or repair was as strong or even stronger than before.

Yet with all the problems with mesh defects and law suits and health problems people are having, what other choice do surgeons have without getting sued?

I feel that FDA and CDC are the ones that should be held responsible for the defective mesh problems.


I have a belly button hernia and it can be a little painful if I pick up something heavy. I have had more than one doctor tell me they don't do anything about them but they never explain why. It can certainly get worse and its appearance is quite disgusting. I am 58 years old and I am tired of doctors saying its just an aging thing. When I go to the doctor I go there to get a problem fixed not to hear them say there is nothing you can do.


I have a belly-button hernia, but the CT scan did not see it. I know this because when I have coughed and been feeling "above my navel" I have felt something move around in the "barely noticeable lump" above my navel. My doctor has told me to watch it to see if it gets worse. I had asked him if there was any way to do easy strengthening exercises to weld it all back together. He said...hmmm, maybe... I am getting sick of doctors making you having to be the diagnoser. Our health system is going to the dogs... (Although they probably get better care)

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