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A hernia occurs when a section of intestine protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal muscles. A soft bulge is seen underneath the skin where the hernia has occurred. A hernia that occurs in the groin area is called an inguinal hernia.
A hernia can develop in the first few months after the baby is born because of a weakness in the muscles of the abdomen. Inguinal and umbilical hernias happen for slightly different reasons.
As a male fetus grows and matures during pregnancy, the testicles develop in the abdomen and then move down into the scrotum through an area called the inguinal canal.
Shortly after the baby is born, the inguinal canal closes, preventing the testicles from moving back into the abdomen. If this area does not close off completely, a loop of intestine can move into the inguinal canal through the weakened area of the lower abdominal wall, causing a hernia.
Although girls do not have testicles, they do have an inguinal canal, so they can develop hernias in this area as well.
When the fetus is growing and developing during pregnancy, there is a small opening in the abdominal muscles so that the umbilical cord can pass through, connecting the mother to the baby.
After birth, the opening in the abdominal muscles closes as the baby matures. Sometimes, these muscles do not meet and grow together completely, and there is still a small opening present. A loop of intestine can move into the opening between abdominal muscles and cause a hernia.
Hernias occur more often in children who have one or more of the following risk factors:
Inguinal hernias occur:
Umbilical hernias occur:
Occasionally, the loop of intestine that protrudes through a hernia may become stuck, and can not return to the abdominal cavity. If the intestinal loop cannot be gently pushed back into the abdominal cavity, that section of intestine may lose its blood supply. A good blood supply is necessary for the intestine to be healthy and function properly.
Once the hernia is closed, either spontaneously or by surgery, it is unlikely that it will reoccur. The chance for reoccurrence of the hernia may be increased if the intestine was damaged..
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”