Did you know hernia repair is one of the most common types of surgeries performed in babies? This can be backed by the fact that almost 1-5% of full-term infants suffer from inguinal hernias while 9-11% of premature infants suffer from the same.Umbilical hernias are more common in infants who are six months or younger. Let’s have a closer look at how hernias develop in babies and how to treat them the right way.
A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes out from its original place in the abdomen due to the weakening of the tissue surrounding that organ. Inguinal and umbilical hernias are the most common types of hernias that occur in babies.
Why do hernias occur in babies?
Hernias occur in babies due to a defect during their childbirth. During the early stages of pregnancy, the opening where the umbilical cord is allowed to be present usually closes over time. However, when it remains open, abdominal contents can protrude through that opening, resulting in the progression of the umbilical hernia. The tissue around an organ press into such openings and result in a hernia.
Types of Hernias in Babies and Children
New parents tend to get anxious when they see their infants crying or see a bulge in any part of the body. The herniated tissues may protrude only during moments of pressure or strain. Don’t be scared if you see a bulge when the infant is crying, coughing, or straining. These tend to retract on their own and cure over a period of time.
A doctor usually frees the trapped tissues by gently squeezing the lump and forcing it back into the opening. Doctors recommend surgery within a few days to prevent the occurrence of another hernia.
Inguinal Hernia in Babies and Children
An inguinal hernia develops in the groin area of the babies. These occur in babies when there is a weakening of muscles in the groin region after a few months of birth.
An inguinal hernia is more likely to occur in an infant if it has one or more of the following risk factors-
- Undescended testes in males
- Abnormalities of the urethra
- Family history of inguinal hernias
When the baby grows inside the mother’s womb, the testicles also develop. After a few days, the testes move down into the scrotum through the inguinal canal. Within a few days of birth, the inguinal canal closes. This prevents the testicles to move back into the abdomen. When the opening doesn’t close properly, part of the intestine can move into the canal through a weakened area, known as an inguinal hernia. The chances of an inguinal hernia are more in males than females.
The symptoms of an inguinal hernia which parents should look out for are –
- A protruded round abdomen
Umbilical Hernia in Babies and Children
In rare cases, babies are born with a weakness or an opening around the belly button. The surrounding tissue can protrude through this opening and cause a hernia. This hernia can prove to be dangerous for newborn babies. One thing to note here is that this type of hernia rarely causes any strangulation.
This kind of hernia causes no discomfort. Generally, the doctor can just push it back into its original place or these retract on their own and close it up by the age of 2. If your child is above two years, and the hernia continues to grow in size then you must consult a paediatrician.
Which children are at a higher risk of developing a hernia?
Some of the risk factors that increase the chances of developing a hernia in children are –
- Premature birth of the baby
- Either one of the parents or sibling developed a hernia in the past
- Suffering from cystic fibrosis
- Undescended testes in males
- Problems with urinary or reproductory organs
Possible Complications of Hernia in a Child
Under normal circumstances, hernia in children tends to cure on its own by the age of two. But if it doesn’t cure on its own, it is not prudent to leave it untreated.
This is because sometimes the intestinal loop can get stuck through the hernia. This is not reducible which means that the loop can’t be pushed back into the stomach. When this is left untreated, the blood supply to that part of the intestine can get blocked which results in dead tissue.
Home Remedies To Treat Hernias in Babies and Children
In addition to medical treatment, you can also try some home remedies that can help put the hernias back to their original place. Some of the home remedies that you can try are –
After feeding your baby, provide your baby with adequate amounts of water. Hydration keeps the system clean and reduces the problem of umbilical hernia. In addition to this, drinking water also enhances blood circulation and reduces straining.
The herb is rich in antiseptic effects. Hence, you can add a few drops of aloe vera juice to the food prepared for your children if only he/she is above 6 months of age.
Coconut oil and olive oil
Both these oils are known to be very effective in reducing the recurrence of umbilical hernia in babies. Massage your child’s abdomen with either coconut oil or olive oil 5-6 times per day.
Rich in antioxidants and high in fiber content, berries are the best natural treatment for curing umbilical hernia in babies and children.
Treatment of Hernia in Babies
After proper diagnosis, the medical practitioner recommends surgical procedures to avoid strangulation of the tissue. Depending on your child’s age, overall health, hernia type, and obviously your preference, the doctors recommend the treatment. The surgery can be done both using open surgery and laparoscopic technique.
The advantage of a laparoscopic method is that it can be performed in all age groups, including premature babies. These procedures are performed on an outpatient basis which means you can take your child back home on the same day of the surgery.
How Should I Take Care Of My Child At Home After Hernia Surgery?
There are several precautionary measures that need to be taken at home after hernia surgery. However, these measures depend on the type of the surgery, age of your child, and the health condition of your child. Some basic precautionary measures are-
- Your child must eat a regular diet after the surgery.
- Most children can resume normal, non-strenuous activities in about 1-2 weeks.
- Don’t allow your child to take a bath for at least 2-3 days of the surgery.
Laparoscopic procedures are provided by highly-experienced doctors. Consult our medical coordinator to know more about the hernia.
Also Read: Precautions after inguinal hernia surgery