Although hernia is usually seen in adults, newborns can also have this condition. Sounds weird? But inguinal hernia and umbilical hernia are common types found in babies. Most of the parents are unaware of this fact. However, if detected in the early stage, effective treatment is possible for a hernia in newborns. Got more questions? Let us understand everything in detail about this condition in your babies through this blog.
What is a hernia?
Hernia is a defect in the muscle layers in various body parts which leads to the protrusion of inner body contents. It appears in the form of a bulge or a lump under the skin typically near the groins and belly in babies. The size can vary based on the body movement. Based on the location, newborns can have either an umbilical hernia (occurs around the belly button) or an inguinal hernia (appears at the groins).
Hernia can be present during the childbirth or can appear at a later point. It develops due to the factors which increase pressure on the abdomen. So, your child can be more prone to developing a hernia if he/she has chronic constipation, obesity, or excessive coughing or is crying very often.
Incidence of hernia in newborns
Hernia occurs fairly commonly in newborns. An overall incidence of hernia in the newborns is 0.4 to 2% and is 30% in the newborns born before 35 weeks of their stay in the womb. Inguinal hernia is seen in nearly 15% of the newborns, but this is as high as 25% in premature babies. Umbilical hernia is seen in 10% of the babies.
Why did my baby get a hernia?
During the development of the baby in the womb, there are certain openings in the abdominal wall. For example, one opening connects the umbilical cord of the baby with the mother; other opening (seen in boys) allows the testes to descend into the scrotum from the abdomen, where they develop. These openings close gradually by the time of baby birth. If these openings do not shut fully by birth, then it can develop into a hernia.
Identify the symptoms of hernia in your baby
Occasionally a hernia can be spotted right away. But in most cases, it cannot be identified till the baby cries or coughs or shows bowel movements. The strain on the abdomen during these actions of the baby presses the hernia against the skin, forming a lump near the belly button leading to an abdominal hernia.
Mostly the lump is temporary and goes off once the pressure gets released. Sometimes even if the baby stops crying, the lump does not go away and becomes tough and painful to touch. Your baby might soon start vomiting or feel some inconvenience. This means an “incarcerated hernia” has developed, where a part of the bowel is squeezed. It is a life-threatening condition and needs an emergency care.
Inguinal hernia can appear usually at infancy and can appear either on a single side or on both the sides of the groin. It is more likely to appear in premature boys and can be identified as an enlarged scrotum. In premature girls, it occurs around the vagina in the large folds of the skin.
Diagnostic tests for hernia
Your doctor diagnoses the presence of hernia based on the symptoms seen in your baby. However, an X-ray or ultrasound may be ordered to confirm hernia, especially if it is hard and unmovable.
Best treatments for hernia in babies
Hernia can lead to obstruction and needs removal by an operation. Infants and younger newborns are at more risk of developing complications, so they need to be operated as early as possible.
If your baby has an umbilical hernia, then you need not worry much as they disappear on their own within a year. But if it is still persistent after 3 to 4 years of its appearance, then your baby needs surgical removal of the hernia before your child reaches 5 years of age.
Inguinal hernia needs to be repaired as soon as possible by surgical removal. This is because it can lead to incarcerated hernia.
An incision is made in the groin to expose the hernia sac. The surgeon pushes the intestine back into a proper position. This is then secured by stitching the abdominal muscles together, and the incision is closed. These stitches dissolve naturally overtime. The surgical procedures are done under general anesthesia, and your baby will be discharged home on the same day of undergoing the surgery.
Preventing your baby from getting hernia is not possible. But a timely detection of the symptoms in your baby can help in the early treatment of the condition. Never ignore any signs of a lump associated with discomfort or pain in your child. Consult a doctor as soon as possible if you discover a bulge in the naval or groins of your baby for confirmation.