A hernia is a protrusion of parts of the abdomen through apertures (that have not normally closed at birth) in the front wall of the abdomen. Hernias occur most commonly in two areas, the umbilical region (navel) and inguinal (groin) area.
Umbilical Hernia: Before birth, the baby was connected to the placenta (later the “after-birth”) by the umbilical cord.
Through this, large blood vessels conveyed blood and food and oxygen to the developing infant. At birth, the cord is no longer needed, it is cut, and it later leaves only a scar known as the navel.
However, the aperture through which the cord passed sometimes fails to close up immediately. Therefore, it is possible for the bowel and other abdominal organs to try and force their way out through this hole.
One infant in six has an umbilical hernia. About 93 percent close up on their own within the first 12 months after birth. The rest generally close by the age of four years, the remaining few usually by six years.
Dangers are rare and complications almost unknown. No treatment is needed. Sometimes, in older children, “strapping” is applied, or occasionally surgical repair may be suggested.
Inguinal Hernias: These occur in the groin through an aperture that invariably closes up during the first year of life.
Often part of the bowel can be pushed through the orifice into the hernial sac. In this way it is possible for it to get in, but not out again.
So an “obstruction” to the bowel occurs. This may be serious and can constitute an emergency. So surgical repair is usually recommended for all inguinal hernias in infants.