Belly button changing shape


How Normal Is Your Navel? Belly Button Facts and Figures You Probably Didn’t Know

Thursday, April 21, 2011 — Talk about navel-gazing: Since February, a group of scientists at North Carolina State University has been studying the germs that inhabit our belly buttons as part of a study called the Belly Button Biodiversity project.

Sounds like an odd research project, but the belly button is the “ideal location” to study germs, says Jiri Hulcr, PhD, a postdoctoral research assistant who is heading the project.

“We’re trying to educate the public about the role bacteria play in our world,” says Dr. Hulcr. “Bacteria are always present on our skin and in our bodies. In fact, there are many, many more bacterial cells on and in our bodies than actual human cells.” (Each person carries about 100 trillion microbes; the human body contains about 10 trillion cells).

Unlike such body parts as the nose or armpits, the navel doesn’t secrete anything. Also, since most people tend to ignore their belly buttons — after all, you don’t scrub or exfoliate it like you do your face — navel bacteria tend to be untouched. “Believe it or not, the belly button serves as a good representation of the types of bacteria found on the body,” Hulcr says.

Good Germs and Bad Germs

The scientists so far have collected nearly 500 samples from belly buttons on cotton swabs, and posted magnified images of each person’s microbes on their Wildlife of Your Body Web site. You don’t need to be a biologist to notice that the cultures vary greatly from person to person.

So what types of bacteria inhabit our belly buttons? “All kinds!” says Hulcr, although his team has mostly found two common skin bacteria, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus, which he says are, for the most part, “friendly.”

“We absolutely need bacteria in order to survive,” he says. “It’s like asking an animal who lives in a forest if he needs the trees. The presence of bacteria is not harmful — it’s only under certain conditions when these bacteria can be potentially unhealthy, like if someone has lowered immunity or a skin injury, like a sunburn.”

The takeaway: Don’t be freaked out by your belly button germs.

More Belly Button Facts

We asked Hulcr and other experts to tell us everything you never knew about your navel. Here, the top seven fascinating finds:

  1. Innies dominate. Hulcr’s team asked study participants whether they had “innies” or “outies.” Only 4 percent of those studied said they had outie-shaped belly buttons.
  2. You can’t control whether you get an innie or outie. Technically considered a scar, belly buttons mark the connection of a mother’s umbilical cord to her fetus in the womb. “The cord serves as the unborn baby’s lifeline, providing her with vital food and oxygen and removing waste products like carbon dioxide,” says Karen Marie Jaffe, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist affiliated with the University Hospitals of Cleveland. The cord is clamped immediately after birth and the remnant eventually falls off to unveil the belly button.

    The ultimate shape of the belly button depends on a number of factors, according to Indianapolis plastic surgeon Barry Eppley, MD, including how the scar attaches to underlying muscles, the looseness of surrounding skin, the fat under the skin, and how flat or protruding your belly is. “Belly buttons vary greatly in their size and shape,” he says on his blog, Explore Plastic Surgery.

  3. Your belly button shape can change — under one special circumstance, pregnancy. “The expansion of the abdomen can cause some “innie” belly buttons to pop out and become outies, but most often, there is not much change in the structure itself,” says Dr. Jaffe. And after birth, the belly button often retracts to its former shape.
  4. Hate your belly button? There’s surgery for that. Yes, people really do get elective plastic surgery to change the appearance of their belly button – it’s called umbilicoplasty, according to Richard Chaffoo, MD, president of the San Diego Plastic Surgery Society and chief of plastic surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital, in Encinitas, Calif. “The popularity of low-rise jeans and midriff tops has lead to an enormous increase in the number of requests for belly button revision surgery in the past few years,” Dr. Chaffoo says.

    According to the most recent data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 8,000 umbilicoplasty procedures were performed between 2002 and 2005; 92 percent in women. Most people have the surgery to transform “outies” to “innies.”

  5. There is an “ideal” belly button shape. According to University of Missouri researchers who showed pictures of various belly buttons to a group of men and women, a small, vertical, T-shaped navel with a little flap of overlying skin was deemed most attractive.

    Having an appealing belly button may make you a more attractive mate, according to Finnish scientist Aki Sinkkone, who published his hypothesis in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 2009.

  6. Certain people are more prone to belly button lint than others. You’re more likely to have belly button lint if you’re male, older, hairy, and have an “innie”-shaped belly button, according to Australian researcher Karl Kruszelnicki, who surveyed nearly 5,000 people about their belly button lint. The lint is a mixture of pieces of clothing fiber that get trapped in your belly button and sweat, skin cells, and bacteria.

    As for smelly belly buttons, well, blame the abundance of bacteria growing in that confined space. “The cultures we analyzed eventually smelled like dirty socks!” says Hulcr.

  7. Belly button, meet soap. Hulcr’s team reports that most people say they don’t wash their belly buttons very often. So what is proper belly button hygiene? “It’s not necessary to scrub it — just taking a shower is good enough,” he says.
  8. Pause before you pierce. Belly button piercings take longer to heal (up to nine months) than other piercing sites (ear and eyebrow piercings heal in six to eight weeks), according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The long healing time can make the site vulnerable to infections; wearing tight clothing can increase the risk. The AAFP says getting pierced with a barbell instead of a ring can help reduce irritation and scarring (you can switch to a ring once the site has fully healed).

Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.

Umbilical Hernia

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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 24, 2019.

  • Care Notes

What is an umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia is a bulge through the abdominal wall near your umbilicus (belly button). The hernia may contain tissue from the abdomen, part of an organ (such as the intestine), or fluid.

What increases my risk for an umbilical hernia?

Umbilical hernias usually happen because of a hole or weak area in your abdominal muscles. Umbilical hernias happen more often in women than in men. The following may increase your risk for an umbilical hernia:

  • Being overweight
  • Age older than 60
  • Fluid in your abdomen (ascites)
  • A large growth in your abdomen
  • Pregnancy, especially more than 1 pregnancy
  • Chronic constipation or straining to have bowel movements
  • Repeated coughing caused by lung disease such as COPD

What are the signs and symptoms of an umbilical hernia?

Umbilical hernias usually do not cause any pain. Your hernia may disappear when you lay flat. You may have any of the following:

  • A bulge or swelling in or near your belly button
  • A bulge that gets bigger when you cough, strain to have a bowel movement, or sit up
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation

How is an umbilical hernia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will usually find the hernia during an exam. You may need an ultrasound or x-ray. These tests may show if tissue, fluid, or an organ is trapped inside the hernia. The tests will also help your provider plan your treatment.

How is an umbilical hernia treated?

Your hernia may go away without treatment. Your healthcare provider may be able to reduce your hernia. He or she will put firm, steady pressure on your hernia until it disappears behind the abdominal wall. You may need surgery to fix the hernia if it cannot be reduced. Surgery will also be needed if your intestines or other organ get trapped inside the hernia. This can stop blood flow to the organ and become an emergency.

How can I manage my umbilical hernia?

  • Drink more liquids. Liquids may prevent constipation and straining during a bowel movement. This can prevent your hernia from getting bigger. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Eat high-fiber foods. Fiber may prevent constipation and straining during a bowel movement. This can prevent your hernia from getting bigger. Foods that contain fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. Heavy lifting can put pressure on your hernia and make it bigger. Ask your healthcare provider how much is safe to lift.
  • Do not place anything over your umbilical hernia. Do not place tape or a coin over the hernia. This treatment does not help treat a hernia.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your hernia gets bigger, feels firm, or turns blue or purple.
  • You have severe abdominal pain with nausea or vomiting.
  • You stop having bowel movements and passing gas.
  • You have blood in your bowel movement.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You are constipated.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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  • Umbilical Hernia in Children

WHETHER you ended up with an innie or an outie, your belly button is with you for life.

While the shape of that little (or not so little) dent in your navel is determined by how the umbilical cord heals and scars, apparently it says a lot about the type of person you are.

7 Your belly button is with you for life – but what does the shape of yours say about you?Credit: Getty – Contributor

The theory of omphilomancy involves studying a person’s navel shape to identify personality traits.

If you believe in Chinese mythology, your belly button shape can even predict how many children you’ll have. Let’s just say if you’re after a big family, the deeper the better.

According to Berlin psychologist Dr Gerhard Reibmann, author of Centered: Understand Yourself through your Navel, you can also tell how long you’ll live by inspecting your navel.

Though there’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that the shape of your belly button can predict your temperament or your lifespan, we certainly found these theories entertaining.

So, what does your navel type reveal about you?

Protuding Naval (aka an Outie)


A belly button which sticks out demonstrates a strong, extroverted, optimistic character, who is stubborn, a fan of the limelight and perseveres to get what they want.

They give their beliefs and opinions a great deal of thought and stick by them. It takes them time to find a compatible partner, but once they do their relationship is expected to be a long one.

Average life expectancy: 72 years.

Deep and round navel


This navel shape indicates a modest, even-tempered person with a big heart and a quiet, shy personality.

They don’t tend to tell loved ones and peers about their misfortunes in life.

Average life expectancy: 81 years.

Vertical/oblong navel


This shape of navel is narrow and thin, and apparently indicates a confident, generous and emotionally stable person.

Average life expectancy: 75 years.

Horizontal navel


This belly button tends to spread side-ways across the tummy, and demonstrates a complex and emotional personality.

They don’t tend to give their trust to others right away, but if they do, it signals that person means a lot to them. One of their principles in life is to treat others as they treat you.

Average life expectancy: 68 years.

Off-centre navel


This unusually-shaped navel indicates a fun-loving, unique personality prone to broad mood swings, often with heightened emotion.

Average life expectancy: 70 years.

Oval Shape


An egg-shaped navel suggests a hyperactive and over-sensitive personality. Taking things too seriously can lead to them being easily hurt – and they often keep quiet about it.

They are impatient individuals and prone to getting bored quickly and easily.

Average life expectancy: 65 years.


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Belly Button Changes During Pregnancy

Has your “innie” started popping through your clothes? Many women find they suddenly have a “popped out” belly button during pregnancy, but it’s a short-term change.

When does your belly button usually change during pregnancy?

Most women find that their navels begin changing around the end of the second trimester of pregnancy.

What causes belly button changes during pregnancy?

Your rapidly expanding uterus pushes your abdomen forward, making even the most inverted innie belly button become an outie.

What can I do about belly button changes when I’m pregnant?

There’s nothing you can do to prevent changes to your navel during pregnancy: Just about every belly button pops at some point during pregnancy. Like so many other pregnancy symptoms, a popped-out belly button is harmless. However, if your navel is irritated from rubbing against your clothes, you can use a specially-designed belly button cover to smooth and protect it. Pregnancy support products like tummy sleeves or tummy shapers can also protect a popped-out navel.

Will my belly button go back to normal after pregnancy?

Yes, your belly button will get right back to its regular position a few months after delivery, although it may look a little stretched out or “lived in.” It’s a badge of honor to wear proudly!

In relatively rare cases, a popped navel can be a sign of an umbilical hernia, which happens when there’s a small hole in the abdominal wall that allows abdominal tissue (like loops of the small intestine) to protrude through the umbilical area.

What causes an umbilical hernia during pregnancy?

Most umbilical hernias are congenital (meaning they’re present at birth). In fact, they’re common in newborns and usually close on their own after birth. Even when a small hole doesn’t close up, it’s not likely to cause problems or be noticeable until a growing uterus starts applying pressure, causing the hernia to get bigger and sometimes leading to a painful bulging around the belly button. Expecting multiples can up the odds of an umbilical hernia.

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How do I know I have an umbilical hernia?

You might feel a soft lump around your navel that’s more noticeable when you lie down, and you might see a bulge under the skin. You might also have a dull achy pain in the belly button area that becomes more noticeable when you’re active, bend over, sneeze, cough or laugh hard.

What can I do about an umbilical hernia during pregnancy?

You can wear a belly band to help keep the hernia from bulging and causing pain. Some women find relief by gently massaging the lump until the bulging goes back in. Or, if it’s not bothering you, you can choose to do nothing at all.

If, once you deliver your baby, the hernia doesn’t recede on its own (or with the help of special exercises recommended by your practitioner), surgery may be required to repair it.

Can I get surgery for an umbilical hernia during pregnancy?

Surgery is not recommended for umbilical hernias during pregnancy unless a loop of bowel slips through the hole and becomes trapped (herniated), risking a loss of blood supply to that area. In that case, your practitioner may recommend that you have a simple operation to repair the hernia, usually during the second trimester.

Moms Describe Their Bumps in 3 Words

Pregnancy in 3 Words

Q: Why do some women’s belly buttons pop out during pregnancy?

A: It doesn’t happen to all pregnant women. But sometimes a growing baby in the uterus can put so much pressure on a woman’s abdominal wall that her normally “innie” belly button becomes an “outie.” It typically happens in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, most commonly around 26 weeks.

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If it happens to you, don’t worry. It in no way indicates a problem. And your belly button will probably return to normal after your pregnancy.

It’s usually painless — other than when the extended belly button rubs on clothing. If your belly button becomes irritated from rubbing on your shirt or waistband, try covering it with a bandage or wearing a loose dress instead of pants.

There’s no rhyme or reason to who gets a popped-out belly button. Every woman’s body — and every pregnancy — is different.

Just don’t confuse this common condition with an umbilical hernia. If your popped-out belly button is painful or there seems to be a bulging mass alongside your belly button, see your doctor.

— Ob/Gyn Karmon James, MD

Will my belly button pop out during pregnancy?

Q: Will my belly button pop out during pregnancy?

A: Most moms-to-be go from innies to outies in the second or third trimester. It happens because your expanding uterus puts pressure on the rest of your abdomen, pushing your belly button outward. After you deliver, the pressure will be gone, and your belly button will go back to normal. If your belly button starts to become irritated from rubbing against your clothing, try wearing maternity pants with a soft, breathable panel (we know you hate them, but they’re made this way for a reason). You can also try pairing loose, flowy shirts with low-rise pants that leave your navel exposed. Although uncommon, sometimes a woman’s belly button can protrude so much that it’s considered an umbilical hernia. Your doctor should notice this during one of your routine prenatal visits and should be able to gently nudge it back. In very rare instances, an umbilical hernia may require minor surgery to repair.

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12 Facts About Belly Buttons

Belly buttons are many things bundled up into one tiny knot: Collectors of lint. Harborers of bacteria. Objects of desire. Symbols of creation and birth. From the gross to the sexy to the spiritual, there’s a lot to unpack about the belly button’s place in history, culture, science, and religion. Let’s get started.


That little spot in the center of your belly marks the place where your umbilical cord once connected you to your mom’s placenta. When that cord is cut, a little, shriveled piece of it gets left behind. It eventually falls off—usually within the first week of a baby’s life—and what remains is a scar. Of course, “belly button” sounds a lot cuter than “belly scar.”


Whether your belly button caves in or sticks out has nothing to do with how your doctor cut or clamped your umbilical cord. It all comes down to the amount of space between the skin and the abdominal wall, which determines how much skin—and scar tissue—is left behind. “You can’t do anything to make sure babies have an innie or outie,” Dr. Dan Polk, a neonatologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. “It has to do with how much baby skin leads onto the umbilical cord from the baby’s body. Less skin makes an innie; more skin makes an outie.” About 90 percent of people have innies, and the rest are outies. In some cases, an outie orientation is the result of an umbilical hernia, which occurs when part of the intestine pokes through the umbilical opening in the abdominal wall. It usually seals up naturally by the time a child reaches the age of 2, but more persistent cases may require surgery.


For those who don’t like their outie, cosmetic surgery is an option—albeit a drastic one. Umbilicoplasty is a surgery that alters the size or shape of the belly button, often by removing excess skin or tightening abdominal skin. A 1971 article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin called belly button beautification the “newest gimmick in the cosmetic surgery game.” The article cited a Japanese physician who had performed more than 3000 navel operations in the ‘60s and early ‘70s for about $80 to $150 a pop. (Now, the surgery costs about $2000 in the U.S.)

An article in The Ottawa Citizen suggested that the surgical technique dates back to the early 1900s, when it was usually done as a corrective measure in conjunction with tummy tuck surgeries, which often displace the belly button. Even if there’s no medical need, a patient can now opt for umbilicoplasty to get the “ideal” shape. “What was favored through the Greek, Roman, and Western civilization to our time is an oval belly button that is more or less vertically oriented,” New York City cosmetic surgeon Bruce Nadler told the paper in 2002, when these surgeries were starting to become more popular. By contrast, Nadler said, horizontal belly buttons are considered more desirable in Asian cultures because they’re associated with good fortune.


Dogs, chimpanzees, lions, and armadillos have one, but their navels aren’t always easy to spot. For one, most mammalian mothers chew off the umbilical cord attached to their newborns, leaving a flat scar that’s harder to detect than a human belly button. Gorillas and chimpanzees are an interesting case for navel-gazers because they have what some scientists call an “in-betweeny”—a navel that looks like a human’s but is neither an innie nor an outie.

However, there are a few notable exceptions to the mammal belly button rule. Platypuses, which lay eggs, have no umbilical cord and therefore no belly button. As for marsupials like kangaroos and koalas, their umbilical cords generally fall off while they’re still inside mom’s pouch, so a scar never forms.


Some people feel anxious, afraid, or disgusted when their belly button is touched or when someone else’s bare midriff is on display. This is called omphalophobia, which stems from the Greek word omphalo for navel. This fear is believed to be linked to the navel’s association with umbilical cords and wombs, or perhaps the irrational childhood fear that a belly button will come undone, letting one’s guts spill out. The phobia has gained more national exposure ever since TV personality Khloé Kardashian admitted she has a fear of belly buttons.


Speaking of touching your belly button (and all the grossness that comes with it), you may feel a tingly sensation when you stick your finger in it. That’s because you’re stimulating fibers lining the inside of your abdomen, which then send a message to your spinal cord. As Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth of NYC Surgical Associates explained to BuzzFeed, “Because your spinal cord at that level is also relaying signals from your bladder and urethra, it feels almost the same. You interpret this as discomfort in your bladder.”


In a similar vein, a rare abnormality can cause urine to leak out of the belly button. In the early stages of pregnancy, a tube called the urachus connects a fetus’s bladder and belly button and allows urine to drain. It usually atrophies and turns into a scar on the bladder at birth or soon after, but not always. Some people may never know they still have all or part of their urachus attached because it only becomes a problem if the tube doesn’t close up. In those cases, urine can travel up through the urachus and leak out of the umbilicus (navel). Surgery is generally needed to fix this issue.


Have you ever wondered why bits of lint keep collecting in your belly button, despite your best efforts to keep clean? Blame it on a special type of hair that grows in navels. These hairs have tiny barbs that protrude and rub against your clothing, causing small fibers to scrape off. The hairs are arranged in concentric circles, which act as a funnel and suck fluff into your navel. Those who shave their stomachs or don’t grow a lot of body hair to begin with likely don’t have many problems with lint.


Beyond lint, a lot of dead skin, discarded fat molecules, and thousands of bacteria also live in your navel. One 2012 study led by the aptly named Belly Button Biodiversity project documented 2368 types of bacteria in the navels of 66 study participants. Fret not, though: They help to protect you against harmful pathogens. “We know that without these microbes our immune systems won’t function properly,” the head of the project, Dr. Rob Dunn, said in a statement. “In fact, this collection of microbes must have a certain composition—must form a certain microbial ecosystem—in order for our immune system to function properly.”


In Western culture, belly buttons have been regarded as “a feminine sexual center since ancient times,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. As such, they were deemed too lewd to show on television, according to the Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters, established by the National Association of Broadcasters in 1951. Barbara Eden, who played the titular role in I Dream of Jeannie, said network executives at NBC held meetings over whether to let her flash her navel during the show’s run in the ‘60s. Her producer, George Schlatter, “said he had never seen so many suits sitting around a table in his life discussing someone’s anatomy,” Eden told the TODAY show. Although Eden’s genie get-up never ended up revealing her belly button, other shows started to push the envelope around the same time. The belly-button ban technically remained in effect until 1983, but it wasn’t exactly enforced. Yvette Mimieux of Dr. Kildare became the first actress to bare her navel on television in 1964, and others followed suit soon after.


Among Christians, the debate over whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons is a little like the age-old “chicken or egg” question. One popular argument holds that Adam and Eve weren’t born naturally from a mother, and thus they wouldn’t have had umbilical cords or belly buttons. Others disagree for various reasons and insist that navels have been around since the dawn of time. Both Raphael and Michelangelo depicted Adam and Eve with navels in their artwork (including the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling painting), leading one 17th-century doctor and philosopher to decry these “vulgar errors,” according to the book Umbilicus and Umbilical Cord by Mohamed Fahmy. Other artists tried to avoid the issue altogether by concealing the couple’s abdomens with foliage, forearms, or long hair.

A few centuries later, a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee refused to distribute a booklet called Races of Man to World War II soldiers because it contained pictures of Adam and Eve with navels. Members of the committee ruled that this image “would be misleading to gullible American soldiers.”


Think of Middle Eastern belly dancing and midriff-baring Indian attire. In some places around the world, the navel holds cultural and even spiritual significance. Some Hindus believe that a lotus emerged from the god Vishnu’s navel, and at the center of the flower was Brahma—the creator of the universe. Likewise, in Japan, the belly button may represent the point where life begins. In the Middle Jōmon period (2500-1500 BCE), Japanese artists emphasized the appearance of navels on their human-like figurines. Today, a belly button festival is held annually in the town of Shibukawa in central Japan. “The belly button is traditionally believed to be located in the middle of the body and the most important part,” festival organizer Kazuo Yamada told Reuters. “Our town, Shibukawa, is also called the belly button of Japan, and that is how this festival began.”

Up to 90 percent of the general population has an “innie,” which leaves the other 10 percent with an outie belly button. Although some would have you believe that an outie is the result of the way the umbilical cord was cut, this just isn’t true. Learn what exactly causes an outie belly button, and more.

What causes an outie belly button?

There are a few things that can happen to result in an outie. An umbilical hernia can cause this when weak abdominal muscles aren’t fused together properly. Usually, these heal on their own and require no action on your part. Another possibility is excess scar tissue causing the navel to protrude from the belly. Don’t blame the doctor; sometimes, these things just happen.

Are outies normal?

Outies are completely normal, although they are a lot less common. Outies are not a result of improper umbilical cord stump care; they just occur under the right circumstances. Consider it a unique trait of your child and nothing more. However, if you notice redness or discharge coming from the area, this could be a sign of infection. Talk to your pediatrician if your child is displaying any of these symptoms, especially if they’re accompanied by a fever.

Do outtie belly buttons require surgery?

An outie requires absolutely no action on your part as it is completely normal. However, if someone is unhappy with the appearance of their belly button and is interested in changing it, then a common cosmetic surgery, called an umbilicoplasty, can be done. There is an old wives’ tale that taping a penny over the belly button will turn an outie into an innie. Unfortunately, there’s no truth to this.

You should bring any concerns to your pediatrician if you suspect something serious, but generally an outie belly button is is healthy and normal. It’s just uncommon. A little extra scar tissue can cause a lot of worry, but rest assured that an innie, outie, or something in between is nothing to fear.

Photo: You Tube

Is My Belly Button Normal?

If you’ve ever looked down at your belly button in wonder, you’re not alone. Navel gazing to contemplate the mysteries of the universe dates back to early Hinduism and ancient Greece. The Greek philosophers even gave this kind of meditative musing a name: Omphaloskepsis — omphalos (navel) and skepsis (to look at or examine). It’s hard to believe that mouthful didn’t catch on, isn’t it?

Here are some more random facts about belly buttons, and a look at whether yours is “normal” or not.

What’s a belly button, anyway?

Your belly button is more than a great way to prove you’re not a cyborg. Your belly button is actually your first scar. Within minutes of being born, your umbilical cord was clamped and cut, leaving a short umbilical stalk sticking out of your abdomen. It shriveled up, turned black, dried up, and fell off. (Who said babies aren’t adorable?)

Innie or outie?

The Greeks pondered many existential questions, but there’s no record that Socrates ever invited Plato to skepsis his omphalos and asked, “Does this look OK to you?”

So what is a “normal” belly button, anyway? The majority of people have “innies,” the very scientific term for belly buttons that dip inward. Protruding “outies” can be found on approximately 10 percent of the population. They’re about as common as left-handedness.

A longstanding theory, or old wives’ tale, “blames” doctors’ techniques for creating outies. But there’s no proof that cutting the umbilical cord a certain way, or at a certain length, results in an outie. The more likely determining factor is the amount of space between your skin and your abdominal muscle wall, according to this plastic surgeon. That is, if you have room to nest an innie, you will. If you don’t, you won’t.

Pregnant women know that an innie can temporarily become an outie as their abdomens grow and their belly buttons pop out. All of this is normal.

That being said, innies do seem to be the more desirable belly button. Cosmetic surgery to turn an outie into an innie is common. (Innie into an outie, not so much.) Note: In case you were wondering, innie people don’t live happier lives, make more money, or score better seats to Hamilton.

So when is a belly button not normal?

Umbilical hernia

If a baby’s belly button suddenly protrudes when the baby laughs, it’s not their little buddy popping up to see what’s so funny. It can be an umbilical hernia. Umbilical hernias occur when the stomach wall fails to fully develop around the umbilical cord. The hernia bulges out when the baby cries, laughs, sneezes, poops, or otherwise exerts pressure on the abdomen. Most umbilical hernias heal on their own because babies are wonderfully resilient. But if they don’t, a simple surgery can correct the problem.

Fecal or menstrual leakage

Yes, you read that right. It is possible for feces or menstrual blood to come out of a belly button. An umbilical fistula, an abnormally developed passageway between the intestines and the umbilicus, can cause fecal matter to leak from the navel. It goes without saying, if poop is coming out of your belly button, you should seek medical attention.

And just for the ladies, rare cases of endometriosis can cause some women to get their periods in their belly buttons. Do they make a tampon for that? No, no they don’t.

Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of endometrium (uterine lining tissue) in places that are not the uterus. The tissue can end up in the bladder, liver, bowel, and other places. Whoever said women are more likely to ask for directions never met an endometrium.

No matter how lost it is, the endometrium can still hear the siren’s call of menstrual hormones and will act accordingly. So, during the menstrual cycle, it will slough off cells as usual. And if those cells are within the umbilicus, the blood’s only way out is through the belly button.

Fecal and menstrual leakages aren’t life-threatening, per se, but they’re also not something to ignore. If you experience these issues, see your doctor.


Garden-variety belly button infections are nowhere near as cool as pooping or menstruating belly buttons. The most common causes of navel infections are piercings and plain ol’ poor hygiene.

Infection symptoms are what you’d expect: pain or tenderness, redness, and swelling, sometimes accompanied by discharge and a foul smell. For those of us who are proud of our innies, it comes with a price — the dark, warm environment is the perfect place for bacteria to grow, or for a yeast infection to move in. For more information about all the things that can go wrong with belly buttons and what to do about them, go here.

4 really weird belly button facts

You’ve probably never devoted this much time to thinking about belly buttons, so why stop now? Here are some truly strange facts to delight your friends at your next dinner party.

1. Your body might say “no way” to your new piercing

If you’ve ever horrified your mother by coming home with a navel piercing, be aware that it might not last. Some bodies see foreign objects as intruders and literally spit them out. When this happens, new cells start growing behind the piercing, slowly pushing it closer to the skin’s surface, until one morning, you wake up and your cute belly ring is laying on your stomach. There’s nothing worse than having your own body agree with your mother!

2. Most belly button lint is blue

Why? Because jeans. Think about it. Also, blue is the most common clothing color. This is also why dryer lint is usually bluish.

3. Your belly button is an erogenous zone

Even though the belly button is just a scar, the area has many nerve endings, making it ticklish, sensitive, and — if you’re like Madonna — a love button that shoots sex tingles up your spine. If it can be licked, dipped, sipped, or dripped, someone has put it into a belly button during sexy time. Is that someone you? You can tell us.

4. Some people don’t have typical belly buttons

When inside the womb, certain developmental problems with the bladder, intestinal tract, and belly wall can a leave a person without a typical belly button. Often these individuals will choose plastic surgery when they’re older to reconstruct their belly button. Some people, like super model Karolina Kurkova, have what can only be described as in-betweenies. Due to her lack of an innie or outtie, her photos are sometimes retouched to create the look of a belly button.

Takeaway: All buttoned up

Unless your belly button is sick, injured, or pooping, it’s completely normal. And anything you want to do with it is normal, too. If you have an outie, but want an innie, go for it. There is a surgery for that. No one can tell you what makes you happy. If you want to pierce it or tattoo it, terrific! Just be sure to keep it clean and dry.

Innies, outies, in-betweenies. We had such an overwhelming response to our recent post on a new study examining belly button bacteria (ew) that we decided we didn’t know nearly enough about our navels, and must investigate further.

Our incredibly scientific reader poll showed that 88 percent of readers have innies. For those of you with outies or something in between, who are unhappy about it — a plastic surgeon can “sculpt” a new navel for you with a little nip and tuck — and at a cost of several grand. Belly button surgery, called umbilicoplasty, is not just for the rich and famous. And people willing to go under the knife aren’t necessarily underwear models, belly dancers or strippers who regularly expose their navels.

“It’s usually done for cosmetic reasons and it takes about 45 minutes,” says Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, Jr., a plastic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The procedure can be done as part of a tummy tuck or in people who have had umbilical hernias and need to have a hole in the abdominal wall surgically repaired. It’s often done on women whose skin hasn’t bounced back after pregnancy.

Some people want to remodel their belly button simply because they loathe its look, whether it’s the shape, size, or protruding skin. Perhaps a woman had an innie all her life, but after giving birth, it became more of an “in betweenie” because the tissue in the abdominal wall has stretched. Worse still (in some people’s minds), it has become — or always was — an outie and sticks out. Heaven forbid!

Created by the snip of the umbilical cord at birth, your belly button gets its appearance when the stalk from the leftover cord dries up leaving an abdominal scar.

Whether you have an innie or an outie has nothing to do with the handiwork of the physician who delivered you, explains Cetrulo. It’s related to the presence of space between the skin and the abdominal wall, he says.

If the soft tissue protrudes through, you’ve got an outie, which is much rarer in people than the more-desired innie.

Cetrulo has never had a patient request an outie and says most people ask for “a vertical dime slot of a belly button that’s small and thin.”

Reconstructing a belly button is done under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis and results in a little pain from soreness afterwards.

Although many umbilicoplasties are done as part of a tummy tuck (and statistics for this are not kept separately), there were more than 2,100 reconstructions done in the US without a tummy tuck in 2005, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. (This is the last year the Society reported statistics for this procedure.) That figure in 2005 put the number of people having belly button surgery in a category comparable to those receiving butt implants.

Belly buttons. For some men, they’re the magic button that immediately signifies fun foreplay is about to begin. They can be kissed, touched, caressed, and tickled. Of course, there’s a special place just below the belly button that holds the key to infinite hours of good times, which is perhaps why this mystical body part has so much attraction for some men. There are also plenty of men who have never found anything sexy about belly buttons; in fact, they’ve probably never put much thought into them at all.

So, for all the guys who find them exciting—and all the fellas who’ve never paid any attention to them at all—we’re bringing a little knowledge to the table about belly buttons. After all, they’re just like opinions and another certain body part: everybody’s got one.

Why Does Your Belly Button Exist in the First Place?

This is a pretty valid question because, for as long as you can remember, it’s just hung out on your stomach. It’s never served a purpose to you, barring the occasional gathering of lint or dirt after a long day’s work. Whether you’re an innie or an outie, your belly button’s simply been a decoration that hides beneath your shirt (unless you roll deep in cut-off shirts like Zeke in AT&T Stadium, in which case, everybody you’ve ever interacted with has probably seen your secret button).

The truth is, once you arrive into this world, your belly button’s job is done. It did its work when you were in the womb and will spend the rest of your life being a conversation piece for articles like this one. Your belly button marks the spot where your umbilical cord was attached to your mother’s womb. This was your pre-birth feeding tube that sent nutrients and oxygen from your mama to your little baby body while you were busy marinating for nine months or so.

Everybody knows the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Is it possible this is where that phrase began? We’re not ruling it out.

Once you were born, the doc clamped the cord, and some brave soul was tasked with taking surgical scissors to your formal life source. (These people were the original cord cutters, before Netflix and Hulu brought new meaning to the phrase.) For the first few years of your life, the remnants of that important body part dried up and fell off, leaving the mere memory of its existence behind in the form of your belly button.

How Do Innie and Outie Belly Buttons Come to Be?

Contrary to popular belief, the concave or convex nature of your naval has nothing to do with the amount of skin that was left over after the cord was cut. In fact, most folks are innies. If you’re an outie, though, rest assured, there’s nothing abnormal about your abdomen (as least as it relates to the status of your stomach knob or hole). Some people have outies because they had extra scar tissue that formed after the cord finally fell off. In some cases, outies occur when the baby develops an umbilical hernia. In these situations, the stomach muscles don’t fuse together properly after the cord disappears, creating a space where abdominal tissues poke through and push the button toward an outward-facing design.

If your doctors weren’t concerned about this situation many years ago, there’s no reason for you to delve into the mystery of your button’s being now. It’s just another one of the things that makes you you!

Can Innies and Outies Switch Places?

Nearly everyone is born as an outie, since the cord is connected to the outside of your body when you’re baking. During your first few weeks, months, or sometimes years of life, your belly button decides on its final destination, determined by the factors discussed above. Most people’s buttons invert by age five, but if you’re still an outie after age five, that’s what you’ll be for the rest of your life. Your outie won’t invert when you’re an adult, nor will your innie suddenly pop out, with one notable exception: pregnant women’s innies often turn into outies as their pregnancies progress. Women with innies often see their oven timers pop up around the second or third trimester, right when the uterus begins to put pressure on their bellies, forcing the circle of life to showcase itself on the outside of her body, where once she was receiving the same nutrients she’s now sending to her unborn baby. If your partner has experienced a sudden circumstance of an innie-turned-outie, it’s completely normal. Most women’s belly buttons return to their pre-pregnancy state after the baby is born.

What if You Hate Your Outie?

For starters, never hate being an outie. It’s a unique characteristic that makes your pretty awesome, and it can be an icebreaker in otherwise awkward clothes-off conversations. Embrace your outgoing nature, and everything else your body has given you that leans in an outward direction, but if you still insist on de-outie-ing your button, you do have options. Cosmetic surgeons are equipped with the skills necessary to tack down the tissue that forced your button’s being into existence in the first place. Mind you, these surgeries can be pretty complicated—and may be fairly pricey—so if you can learn to love your little love knot, you’ll save yourself an unnecessary adventure under the knife that could cost you a pretty penny.

In real life, outies are extraordinary characteristics that you should celebrate as you stand out from the crowd. It’s kind of like being a lefty, driving a manual transmission, or wearing orange at a white party: you’re you, and that’s all there is to it.

Have You Considered the Cultural Implications of Belly Button Showdowns?

If you’re old enough to know about I Dream of Jeannie, you already know what kind of seduction can be aroused from an unexposed naval. Barbara Eden (Jeannie) was the ultimate sex symbol of TV during the late ’70s. Fun fact: nobody knew the situation of her belly button because the network emphatically hid her not-made-for-TV whatnots under the cloak of her Jeannie dressings. Go back and watch a few episodes on YouTube. We dare you to find an example of her naval being exposed on national TV!

In other places around the world, the belly button has long been celebrated as an item that should be adored and adorned. In Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, for example, belly buttons are part of everyday art pieces, bringing with them beautiful dances or exaggerated art that place this pivotal body part at the center of the main attraction.

Pro tip: If you’ve never tried Indian food, make sure your first experience with naan is served up in a place that provides an authentic experience. Belly dancers are incredible artists who really bring a true sense of genuine culture to the food you’ll be eating. It’s not just about the food; it’s about imbibing in a culture other than your own.

The Hidden Sensuality Behind the Belly Button

This is a shout out to all of our guys who love looking at women’s navels. It’s not just a weird quirk that makes you wonder what she’s working with. There’s an actual science behind your affinity for this part of the body. Psychology Today sums it up best with the following quote:

“Evolutionary psychologists believe that all men are instinctively attracted to body orifices, and even though the belly button is not exactly an orifice , it is still an object of desire. Because of the visual similarity between the belly button and female sexual organs, psychologist Dr. Elmar Basse explained for German Bild that the navel is a “small vagina,” which makes it hard to resist for men.”

The belly button also points to a woman’s hips and curves, which instinctively tell a man if she’s a mate with whom he can partner, even if he doesn’t realize he’s thinking these things. It all goes back to evolution. Women are attracted to men who smell like they work; men are attracted to women who look like they could bear their children. There’s nothing sexist about it. This is the way evolution affects our brains from a scientific point of view. The parts that are most stimulating and sensual to us today were actually the tools our brains involuntarily used to size up potential partners long before Tinder existed.

Do belly buttons turn you on? Are you into innies or outies? Take a break from work and join in on the conversation by jumping in on the comments section below!

Outie Belly Buttons: Everything You Need to Know

Benoist S?bire/Getty Images

The belly button is a mysterious part of our bodies—and with a rise in midriff-baring fashion, navel tattoos, and belly button piercings, we can’t help but examine each other’s navels. While the vast majority of people have “innie” belly buttons (where it dips inward like a big dimple), there are those who have an “outie” belly button (ones that stick out like a little knot). The good news is that whichever one you have, it’s totally normal. But, there are so many extra questions: Why do some people have innies and why do others have outies? What are the differences between the two? Are there special ways of caring for either—and are there any signs that could signal a health problem? We asked the experts common questions about outie belly buttons (like why they occur)—and to dispel some myths about this body part. Here’s all you need to know about them.

What Causes Outie Belly Buttons—and Is There Cause for Concern?

One common hunch is that outies are a result of how a newborn’s umbilical cord is cut or clamped—that’s not true. Most often, outies do occur in newborns, and are first noticed after the umbilical cord stump drops off in one to three weeks. (During pregnancy, some women’s navels pop out temporarily.) With newborn outies, there’s usually no known cause and no need to worry.

“The skin just chooses to grow in an outward direction rather than inward,” says Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, an Atlanta pediatrician, co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, and spokesperson for American Academy of Pediatrics. “It may or may not go away. Even if it doesn’t, it’s purely a cosmetic concern.”

Less often, outies result from one of two underlying medical conditions—an umbilical hernia or an umbilical granuloma—that rarely pose health concerns or require treatment.

An umbilical hernia—most common with premature babies—occurs when intestine, fat pushes up through a tiny hole in a newborn’s stomach muscles, causing a bulge in or near the navel. Typically, this is not dangerous or painful and the hole closes on its own without treatment within a few years.

An umbilical granuloma is a small swollen piece of skin that develops in the belly button soon after the umbilical cord falls off. If left untreated, it hardens and looks like a little ball of skin inside the navel.

What’s a Parent to Do?

Usually not much. If your newborn has an outie, there’s no need to rush to the pediatrician’s office. “Talk to your doctor at the next checkup,” says Shu. “It does not warrant a special visit.”

Pediatricians can readily spot an umbilical hernia in a newborn but usually adopt a wait-and-see attitude and monitor the situation. If your baby is diagnosed with an umbilical hernia, remember it is likely to heal spontaneously before your child is four or five years old.

In extremely rare instances, protruding intestine can get trapped in the hole, requiring immediate surgery. Beyond this, the few children that still have an intestinal hernia by age four or five years old sometimes undergo a simple surgical procedure to close the hole and, if necessary, to tuck any protruding material into the belly button.

When pediatricians including Shu spot an umbilical granuloma, they may cauterize it, which involves drying the skin with a chemical that causes it to soon shrink away. “It doesn’t hurt at all. It’s like painting a fingernail,” says Shu.

Can or Should an Outie be Fixed?

Parents in some cultures believe a baby’s outie will go away faster by taping a quarter over it or by wrapping a bandage around the belly but there is no evidence that this works, says Shu.

Cosmetic surgery can “fix” an outie but there’s rarely a health reason to have it. If an older child is bothered by his or her outie, parents may want to discuss this with their pediatrician.

But these days, most parents of newborns with outies “roll with it,” says Shu, especially since they can readily find reassuring medical information online. “I usually tell parents to leave it alone.”

Kids with outies still may be the target of teasing but even that risk may be diminished. “We are much more into body tolerance these days,” says Shu. “We’re all a little different and if your belly button sticks out that makes you ‘you’ and is part of your personality.”

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