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When my baby cries a strange lump appears at the bottom of his tummy next to his leg. I haven’t been to the doctor because it disappears when he stops crying, so I feel it can’t be serious. But it is odd, and is bothering me. Should I see the doctor?

Your baby has a hernia, which is fairly common in newborns. In this situation, there is a small gap in the abdomen through which the testes descended. A piece of intestine has worked its way through this gap and this is the bulge that you see when the baby cries. In some babies the intestine can move down into the scrotum, and hernias are also sometimes seen around the belly button.

Your baby is probably completely unaware of the hernia, and is not in any pain or discomfort. Nevertheless it is vital that you take the baby to the doctor. After examination, your doctor will decide if surgery is required. This is because there is the slight possibility that the piece of intestine will get pinched in the gap, causing a blockage in the intestine. This can be very serious, and can cause the baby to go into shock, with severe pain and vomiting.

Surgery is very quick and baby should recover easily from the minor incision. This route of prevention is far preferred to the risk of the hernia becoming strangulated. If your baby shows evidence of a hernia, and then suddenly begins to cry with pain and vomit, you should call the doctor immediately. Keeping the baby’s bottom raised, with an ice pack on the inflamed area, may help to relieve symptoms until you reach the hospital, or the doctor arrives. Never try to push the hernia back into the abdomen.

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