Doctors diagnose an umbilical hernia when a portion of the intestine pokes through the umbilical opening -- the belly button. A gestating baby draws nourishment from its mother through the umbilical cord before birth. After the doctor or partner severs the cord during the birth, the muscles at the baby's umbilical opening should close. If they do not, an umbilical hernia could result. Although the condition is most common in infants, this type of hernia can occur later in life, for various reasons.
Umbilical hernias are most common in premature or low birth-weight infants. Most umbilical hernias in infants naturally close by the age of five. Their most common symptom is a soft, smooth, bulging belly button. The hernia appears or becomes more prominent when the infant is straining, crying, or coughing, and could be unseen when she relaxes or rests on her back. For babies, umbilical hernias are usually painless, though in adults they often cause discomfort.
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