An omphalocele is a congenital (present at birth) condition in which the abdomen (belly) does not form correctly during a baby’s development. This causes the intestines or other organs to grow in a clear sac outside the body. This sac is typically located at the base of the umbilical cord, which becomes the belly button after birth.

Symptoms of an Omphalocele

The main symptom of this condition is the visible organs that should be inside the belly, appearing in a clear sac outside the abdomen. OB/GYNs can often see this condition on prenatal (pregnancy) ultrasounds before your baby is born. If not detected before birth, doctors will see it at the time of birth.

When to see a doctor

If your OB/GYN notices anything out of the ordinary on your prenatal ultrasounds, they will refer you to a high-risk pregnancy doctor to give you more information about your baby’s health and provide additional testing. You may also see a surgeon during prenatal consultation if the condition is discovered before your baby is born.

Causes of an Omphalocele

An omphalocele can happen due to an abnormality during development in utero. The condition occurs when the intestines or organs are not properly within the abdomen, but instead remain external through the opening in the umbilical cord. It is not fully understood by experts why this happens during fetal development.

Who’s at risk

Babies born with an omphalocele may have other genetic conditions as well, including:

  • Diaphragmatic hernia (hole in the diaphragm ­– the muscle between the abdomen and chest)
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney problems

Contact an Orlando Health doctor

If your OB/GYN suspects that your child may have an omphalocele, you may be referred to a pediatric surgeon or a neonatologist for a tour of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).