What’s behind your belly button?

Our belly button is a reminder for life that once we were attached to and dependent on our mother, floating like a little astronaut in our liquid universe. The cord, and in particular the remaining belly button, has always been fascinating to humans and we still embark on some interesting traditions to celebrate and aid the physical separation of the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is probably the baby’s first toy, as they are sometimes caught on ultrasound playing around with it.

At some point after the birth the cord ceases its important function of taking blood back and forth between the mother and baby. Once cut and clamped it withers away into a firm black stump over the first week of life before falling off and leaving that much adored belly button.

The part of the umbilical arteries closest to the belly button degenerates into ligaments that serve no real purpose but the more internal part becomes part of the circulatory system and is found in the pelvis supplying blood to parts of the bladder, ureters and ductus deferens (a tube sperm moves through in males).

Rarely a canal remains that connects the bladder to the belly button. This leads to urine leaking out of the belly button and this is an abnormality that would need to be surgically repaired following birth.

Ever noticed that when you stick a finger in your belly button you can feel tingling around your bladder and pelvic area? Now you know why. What was once a highway of blood from mother to baby turns into ligaments and some continued connection to blood supply deep inside your body.

So next time someone tells you not to navel gaze you will have a smart come back about just how amazing the navel really is.

by Professor of Midwifery, Western Sydney University

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