How to Say It: uhm-fa-lo-seal


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.

Normal Anatomy of the Abdominal Organs

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

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in girls.

The risk of this problem is higher in women who are pregnant and:

  • Take certain medicines, such as asthma medicine and antidepressants
  • Smoke
  • 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.


The defect will need to be repaired. Choices are:


Organs can sometimes be harmed. There may also be some problems with digestion. Medicines that may help are:

  • 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.


A woman can lower the risk of this problem in her baby by:

  • Reaching a healthy weight before becoming pregnant
  • Talking to the doctor about medicines taken during pregnancy, especially asthma medicine and antidepressants
  • Not smoking
  • Not drinking alcohol


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


March of Dimes Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada


Facts about omphalocele. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Accessed November 5, 2020.
Gamba P, Midrio P. Abdominal wall defects: prenatal diagnosis, newborn management, and long-term outcomes. Semin Pediatr Surg. 2014 Oct;23(5):283-290.
Omphalocele. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 5, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2021

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