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Omphalocele is a birth defect. It is a gap in the muscles and skin where the belly button should be. Abdominal tissue and organs push through the gap to the outside of the body. They are contained in a sac.


The cause is not known. It may be due to a mix of genes and the environment.

Risk Factors

Omphalocele happens more in boys.

If you are pregnant, the following factors may increase your risk of having a child with this:

  • Taking certain medicines, such as asthma medicine and antidepressants
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol

Being overweight or obese before pregnancy also raises the risk.


An omphalocele will be seen around the belly button.


Omphalocele may be suspected during a fetal ultrasound. After birth, an omphalocele can be found by viewing it.


Talk with the doctor about the best plan for your baby. Your baby may need:


Organs can sometimes be harmed. There may also be some problems with digestion. Your baby may need extra care, such as:

  • Dextrose and electrolyte solutions for nutrition and hydration
  • Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible


The goal of surgery is to put the tissue back in place and close the wall. The type of surgery will depend on the degree of the omphalocele.

Large defects may need many surgeries over a longer period of time.


If you are pregnant, you can lower your chance of your baby having an omphalocele if you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy.
  • Quit smoking before and during pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about replacing or stopping certain medicines that may raise your risk.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

March of Dimes


March of Dimes Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada


Facts about omphalocele. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/Omphalocele.html. Updated November 17, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2018.

Omphalocele. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116208/Omphalocele. Updated June 7, 2017. Accessed July 2, 2018.

Omphalocele. PEMSoft at EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Accessed July 2, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 7/2/2018