Umbilical Cord Fell Off Yellow Underneath
The human body has all kinds of amazing structures and functions that are often hidden beneath layers of skin, fat and hair. The umbilicus — also called the belly button — is one such area that’s usually well-hidden by clothing and not something people really think about much. But it can cause some pretty big problems for babies if they have any type of wound on their bodies.
“It is important to remember that just because you do not see the umbilicus doesn’t mean there isn’t one,” says Dr. Jennifer Lee, obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center via email. “When your baby was born, the placenta grew under the abdominal wall until the uterus opened up into the vagina. As the mother went through labor, this opening got bigger and more visible, so we call it the ‘belly button’ or umbilicus.”
In fact, you might notice a red lump where the cord fell off that could be covered in clear or yellow discharge. That’s actually a common occurrence, according to Lee.
“This is known as an umbilical granuloma,” she adds. “While most will go away without treatment, sometimes they can become inflamed or infected and need medical attention.”
If you’re wondering what exactly happens when a fetus gets its first taste of air during birth, check out our article explaining how the infant passes from the womb to the outside world.
A Granuloma Is A Kind Of Wound
Granulomas form around small blood vessels that supply nutrients to growing tissue like bone marrow. In the case of a newborn, these tiny lumps appear when the umbilical vein (the vessel that supplies oxygenated blood to the developing baby) falls off, causing inflammation and bruising. Most resolve within two weeks with no intervention needed, but larger ones can take months. If left untreated, however, they can become painful and even lead to scarring and permanent nerve damage.
According to Lee, umbilical granulomas occur in babies who were exposed to tobacco smoke or other environmental chemicals while still inside the mothers’ wombs before being delivered. These substances break down the elastic fibers in the umbilical veins, which leads to bleeding and swelling. They cause the small blood vessels to lose their elasticity and rupture, resulting in a large mass of blood clotting together. Over time, the clot breaks apart and forms the characteristic umbilical bump.
“They tend to present themselves most commonly in the third trimester, after delivery, and less commonly in pregnancy,” Lee notes. “They can affect either sex equally. However, I don’t know of any gender-specific risk factors. It is thought that these lesions may also result from trauma during delivery, but many cases are idiopathic. Umbilical granulomas are uncommon, occurring in only 2 percent of pregnancies overall. Women with darker pigmentation are at higher risk.”
Lee recommends talking with a doctor if you’ve noticed anything unusual. She cautions that it’s important to keep track of the size of the lesion and get regular ultrasounds done to make sure nothing grows unnoticed.
“I would recommend imaging studies every three months starting at six weeks postpartum, depending on the size and location of the lesion,” she says. “Most women should be monitored closely and seen regularly by their provider. Some women choose to treat them with home remedies, such as over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams, antihistamines, or warm compresses. For the majority of patients, these things work fine without medical intervention.”
So What Are The Different Types?
As mentioned above, most types of umbilical granulomas resolve on their own with little to no further action needed. There are two main types, however: those that are raised and protruding and those that are depressed and flat. Depressed types are easier to identify than the more subtle elevated ones. Both types typically show up as a round, swollen, pinkish bump underneath the navel.
“There are several different types of umbilical granulomas,” Lee explains. “These include solitary umbilical granulomas, multiple umbilical granulomas, umbilical hernias with internal contents, and umbilical hernias without internal contents. Solitary umbilical granulomas are usually found alone in the umbilical cord. Multiple umbilical granulomas are clusters of smaller granulomas that look like grapes. Herniated umbilical granulomas are collections of fluid, cells, and amniotic sac material that bulge through the umbilicus. Non-herniated umbilical granulomas are sessile nodules that grow on the surface of the umbilicus and do not penetrate the skin. All types of umbilical granulomas can cause pain, tenderness, and discomfort.”
How To Treat Them
For mild bumps, Lee suggests using topical corticosteroids, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone ointment. You’ll want to monitor them for improvement, though. If it hasn’t gotten better after a week or so, you may want to consult your doctor. He or she may prescribe an oral antibiotic, such as erythromycin, clindamycin, or tetracycline, which can help reduce the infection and prevent complications.
Of course, you should never try to squeeze or pop your bumps, since doing so can potentially damage nerves and increase the likelihood of scarring. And speaking of scars, Lee warns against self-treatments for umbilical granulomas.
“Many people use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to relieve itching and irritation,” she says. “However, neither medication works effectively enough to treat ulcers. Neither helps heal the underlying problem, which is an inflammatory process. Also, both medications contain steroids, which can suppress normal healing mechanisms. Steroid therapy causes thinning of the skin, increased susceptibility to infection, and delayed wound healing. Hydrocortisone cream can cause hypoglycemia in diabetics, and calamine lotion can irritate sensitive skin. Therefore, if you suspect you have an active umbilical granuloma, please seek care immediately.”
Your best bet for treating severe cases is surgery, although this option is rarely needed unless it becomes severely infected, Lee says. If you do decide to undergo surgery, it’ll likely involve removing part of the bump and surrounding skin and stitching it back up. Your doctor will probably want to drain any pus buildup that occurs as the wound heals.
One thing that’s important to note here is that pregnant women aren’t the only ones prone to these bumps. Babies who are premature or have been exposed to certain drugs are also vulnerable. So are older adults, especially those taking high doses of estrogen. Smoking can also trigger the formation of these lumps.
Not everyone wants to remove the entire umbilical cord stump once they cut it. However, cutting the cord too short can also leave behind a piece that could hang down and possibly get caught on something, including clothes and furniture. Cutting it too long can also pose risks, since it could interfere with breathing and cause jaundice.
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