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An omphalocele is a defect of the abdominal wall.

What it is

An omphalocele is a birth defect that is indicated by the protrusion (sticking out) of the abdominal organs through the belly button. Sometimes an omphalocele is smaller and only the intestines stick out. In a larger omphalocele, the liver or spleen may also stick out of the belly button area. Protruding organs are protected by a thin layer of tissue. An omphalocele is the result of the muscles of the abdominal wall not closing properly. Approximately 25-40% of infants with an omphalocele have other birth defects.


  • Organs stick out of the belly button area and are covered by a thin membrane


Anti-depressants: According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of developing an omphalocele is nearly tripled for babies who are exposed to SSRI anti-depressants before birth. SSRI anti-depressants include:

  • Zoloft
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Celexa
  • Lexapro

Clomid: Maternal use of the fertility drug Clomid more than doubles a baby’s risk of being born with an omphalocele, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Painkillers: According to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, babies whose mothers take opioid painkillers during pregnancy are 30% more likely to develop an omphalocele. Opioid painkillers include:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone


The protective sac around the omphalocele keeps the organs safe so that more serious birth defects, if there are any, can be dealt with first. A man-made material is stitched in place over the sac, and the baby’s abdomen is wrapped. Over time, the abdominal contents are pushed back into the abdomen. When the omphalocele fits back into the abdomen, the man-made material is removed and the abdomen is stitched shut. In some cases, the omphalocele is too big to be placed back into the infant’s abdomen, and the skin around it will grow and eventually cover it. The abdominal muscles and skin can be cosmetically repaired later in life to give the child a more normal appearance.

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