Many pregnant women experience bellybutton pain during the second and third trimester.
The bellybutton, or navel, is the attachment point for the placenta in the womb. It is not attached to any part of the abdominal cavity after birth.
Most causes of bellybutton pain are harmless and will disappear when the baby is born.
Possible causes of bellybutton pain during pregnancy include:
As the fetus grows, the uterus expands beyond its usual position to accommodate it. This movement puts pressure on the abdomen, including the bellybutton.
During the second trimester, the uterus no longer fits inside the pelvis. It now sits between the navel and breast.
By the third trimester, the uterus extends from the pubic area to the bottom of the ribs.
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The growth of the uterus, as well as the baby’s position in the womb, can exert pressure on the bellybutton.
Over time, the increased pressure on the navel may cause pain, itchiness, and discomfort.
Weight gain and shifting organs during pregnancy stretches the skin and muscle around the belly.
The stretching can sometimes cause diastasis recti, which occurs when the rectus abdominis muscles, or ‘abs,’ separate into left and right halves.
The ‘abs’ are a pair of large muscles that start below the breastbone and end at the pelvis.
Diastasis recti does not directly cause navel pain, but it reduces the amount of tissue between the uterus and the bellybutton, which may increase sensitivity to pressure in the area.
Skin stretching may also cause some localized pain and itchiness on and around the bellybutton.
Popped belly button
Some pregnant women experience a popped bellybutton, which occurs when pregnancy pushes a women’s inward bellybutton outward.
A popped bellybutton may increase sensitivity and pain.
Although a hernia may sound dangerous, it does not typically harm a pregnant woman or fetus.
An umbilical hernia happens when pressure pushes the bowel into the umbilical cavity. It can then get trapped there, becoming inflamed and painful.
Umbilical hernias can occur due to increased uterine pressure.
Unless it is causing significant symptoms, doctors may recommend watching and waiting rather than performing surgery on the hernia.
However, if there is a risk of incarceration and strangulation, the doctor may proceed with surgery.
Incarceration and strangulation occur when part of the bowel does not receive enough blood. A reduced blood supply can cause tissue death and other complications.
Surgery does present a small risk to pregnant woman and fetus, but the risk is relatively low.
A woman may need to remove any bellybutton piercings during pregnancy. If the piercing is pulling on the tightened skin, there is the possibility it may tear.
A torn or injured bellybutton increases the risk of infection.
If the piercing is less than 1 year old, it may still be healing, so a woman should speak to a doctor about removing it.
Applying warm or cool compresses to the area that feels itchy or painful may relieve discomfort.
Avoid using very hot compresses or ice packs that are not wrapped in a towel, as they may cause burns and increase the navel’s sensitivity.
Applying calamine lotion or aloe vera gel may also soothe sensitive skin on and around the navel.
If the pain is not due to an umbilical hernia, pregnancy massage may also help relieve pain.
A systematic review found that massage, including partner-delivered massage, provided moderate relief of lower back and pelvic pain.
When to see a doctor
If the skin is inflamed, red, or cracked or if the pain is severe or sharp, it is best to speak to a doctor.
Most causes of bellybutton pain during pregnancy will not lead to any lasting complications.