While a belly button isn’t quite as unique as your fingerprint, there are still lots of types out there. The first distinction is usually if the belly button is an innie or outie.
Innie belly buttons are like a little dent in your stomach. Outie belly buttons look like a little knot is sticking out.
Is your innie or outie belly button the result of a specific cause or chance? Keep reading to find out more about how you got the belly button shape you did, and what you can do if you don’t like it.
Your belly button is a reminder of the place that once connected you to your mother via the umbilical cord.
When you’re born, the umbilical cord is cut and you have a small piece left called the umbilical stump. One to 2 weeks after birth, this stump falls off and what remains is your belly button.
As a result, your belly button is essentially a scar. Whether it’s an innie or outie depends on how your skin grows as it heals.
You can’t blame your doctor or parents for how your belly button formed
Let’s get a few things straight: Your belly button is NOT:
- the result of how a doctor clamped the umbilical cord
- the result of how a doctor or anyone else cut the umbilical cord
- the result of how your parents took care of the umbilical stump
It doesn’t have anything to do with your weight or the size of your stomach
The way your belly button looks is mostly by chance. It doesn’t have anything to do with the size of your stomach or your weight.
A person who is overweight can have a very small belly button, and a person who is underweight can have a larger-sized belly button. However, a person with obesity is more likely to have a funnel-shaped belly button, which may appear as a deep belly button that resembles an open mouth.
Some people may not have a belly button
Here’s another fun fact: Some people don’t have belly buttons. This is usually because they were born with a condition that affected the umbilical cord.
Most of these conditions cause the intestines to form or protrude outside the abdominal wall, so the umbilical cord doesn’t fall off and create the traditional scarring that results in a belly button.
Innie belly buttons are much more common than outies. But most of the time, outie formation is simply luck of the draw. A few exceptions exist, though. Babies with certain medical conditions that affect the belly button are more likely to have outies.
Certain medical conditions may cause an outie belly button
One example is an umbilical hernia, where the abdominal muscles around the belly button don’t grow as they should. The effect creates a weakness in a baby’s abdominal wall, which can cause the intestines to come out through the abdominal wall and push on the belly button.
While the condition isn’t painful to a baby, it can cause complications later in life, so doctors usually surgically repair it.
Another example is an umbilical granuloma. This is when extra tissue forms around the belly button stump. It puts extra pressure on the belly button, which can cause it to become an outie. Doctors usually treat this with topical applications to remove excess skin.
Adults can get umbilical granulomas too, especially after belly button piercings.
There are a few medical conditions that may affect the belly button’s appearance as an adult. They’re often due to underlying conditions that put extra pressure on the belly button and cause it to switch from an innie to an outie in appearance. These include:
- Ascites: fluid that accumulates in the peritoneal cavity, often due to a disorder with the kidneys or liver
- Hepatosplenomegaly: an enlargement of the liver and spleen
- Pregnancy: the increasing size of the uterus can cause the belly button to pop outward
Usually, when the condition resolves, your belly button will become an innie again.
The appearance of your belly button doesn’t affect your health. But, there are lots of people who’ve chosen surgical correction after abdominal surgery or because they didn’t like their belly button’s appearance.
Doctors call surgery to reconstruct or adjust the appearance of a belly button an umbilicoplasty. This procedure can be done as part of other cosmetic procedures, such as a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty.
About the procedure
When surgeons perform an umbilicoplasty, they can usually do the procedure under local anesthesia. This means they use numbing medications around the belly button so you can’t feel what they’re doing. They will make several small incisions and sew them together in key areas to create a new belly button.
Because an umbilicoplasty is a fairly minor procedure, there isn’t a lot of downtime for recovery or long-lasting side effects. Some potential complications include infection or tissue death if blood flow to the skin is affected. There’s also the risk you may not like the way the incisions heal.
Belly buttons are essentially an anatomical wildcard. They’re a scarred area in the abdominal wall where your umbilical cord once was.
Having an innie or outie doesn’t mean anything for your health. However, if you don’t like the appearance of your belly button — or don’t have one due to past surgery or a childhood medical condition — you can talk to a plastic surgeon about an umbilicoplasty.