Hernia in Babies – What it is, Symptoms, Cause & Treatment

Hernia is a birth defect that some babies are born with. It is a lump, which can be of any size that develops under the skin in the tummy or groin region. The lump develops as a result of body tissue or intestine pushes through tummy or groin muscles to protrude and occupy a space where it does not belong.

There are two types of hernia: inguinal and umbilical hernia.
Inguinal hernia can develop as a result of three things: protrusion of the intestine (boys and girls), protrusion of fallopian tube (girls) or folding of membrane in the abdomen (boys and girls). Inguinal hernia normally develops in the groin as a bulge that causes some level of discomfort. The bulge becomes prominent when a baby coughs or cries.

There are cases where the developed bulge can extend to the scrotum in case of boys and to the outer labia in case of girls. It happens that inguinal hernia commonly develops on the right side of the body for both boys and girls. The number of boys born with inguinal hernia seems to outnumber that of girls.

On the other hand, umbilical hernia is more common in girls than boys. Unlike inguinal hernia, umbilical hernia does not cause any discomfort although it is also visible when a baby coughs or cries. Umbilical hernia is usually reversed with the reversion involving a physician pushing it back. However, most physicians leave it so until a baby attains age of two years, a time when the hernia resolves itself.


It is very easy to tell when a baby has either types of hernia. The most distinct symptom is a bulge that appears when a baby coughs or cries. The bulge normally disappears when a baby is asleep. Other symptoms include discoloration of the area around the bulge, complaint of pain either in the abdomen or groin areas and fever, which can be low or high.


What causes hernia is not known. It is simply a birth defect that some babies are born with. Development of tummy muscles when a baby is still in the womb is gradual. It is perfectly normal for the tummy muscles to develop while leaving some gaps in between. It happens that gaps in tummy muscles fail to close, leaving gaps that body tissues including the intestine can protrude through, leading to hernia. This is one reason why babies born prematurely are usually at high risk of having hernia because they are born when their tummy muscles have not developed fully.


Umbilical hernia usually resolves on its own by the time a baby turns 2 years. However, some physicians try to push the resultant bulge back, in which case it resolves.

Inguinal hernia can cause serious complications leading to death of a baby. This is because it can easily incarcerate only to strangle an organ or vital tissues of the body that supplies blood to other organs. Treating such hernia involves surgical procedures.

Doctors do normally take necessary precautions including correct diagnosis of hernia before a baby is subjected to surgical procedures. This is because there are other conditions that are similar as hernia, conditions that may not require surgery. Diagnosis is therefore usually aimed at isolating such conditions as hydrocele, which develops as a bulge filled with fluid. Another condition is retractile testicles in boys, a condition associated with retraction of testicles from time to time.

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