There are many reasons someone may experience bellybutton pain. Some causes are simple, resolvable stomach issues, while others are serious, potentially fatal conditions.

Anyone experiencing bellybutton pain, or periumbilical pain, should talk with their doctor to determine the cause. Many minor conditions can cause pain in the navel area and may even radiate to other areas of the body, including the pelvis, legs, and chest.

Common causes include indigestion, constipation, and umbilical hernias. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Fast facts on bellybutton pain:

  • Pregnancy can cause bellybutton pain.
  • Some temporary conditions can cause abdominal pain.
  • Anyone who has abdominal surgery can experience bellybutton pain.
  • Constipation can cause bellybutton pain, but it is not typically a serious condition.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Bellybutton pain can range in intensity and location. It can be mild or sharp and occur in different parts of the body. Depending on the underlying cause, people may feel pain:

  • near or behind the bellybutton
  • in the upper abdomen near the breastbone or chest
  • near the lower belly, including around the hips

Bellybutton pain can occur constantly or intermittently. For some people, bellybutton pain occurs during certain activities or movements, such as stretching or urinating. It may feel similar to a bloating or pulling sensation.

Pain within the bellybutton can sometimes result from a skin infection. This could be fungal or bacterial. Injuring the skin in the area, a buildup of bacteria from sweat, or friction can cause the skin to become inflamed or infected.

If a person notices any discharge of fluid or blood, a strong odor, itching, or discoloration, they should speak with a doctor to determine the cause.

Treatment will vary based on the severity of the issue. It can range from over-the-counter (OTC) ointments to oral antibiotics.

In general, a person should clean the bellybutton area regularly and keep it as dry as possible. A person should take extra care with cleaning if they have a bellybutton piercing.

Mild bellybutton pain is typically not a cause for concern. However, people who are experiencing any significant and ongoing discomfort or pain should report it to a doctor.

An umbilical hernia could be a cause of bellybutton pain. This may occur during pregnancy due to changes in abdominal muscles. However, umbilical hernias are rare and are more likely to affect people who have obesity.

Symptoms of an umbilical hernia include:

  • a bulge near the bellybutton
  • swelling around the bellybutton
  • pain in, around, and near the bellybutton
  • pain that gets worse when lifting, standing, or straining
  • nausea and vomiting

A bowel or intestinal obstruction is a blockage in the intestine that can cause intense pain in the abdomen and bellybutton area. There are several reasons why a blockage could occur:

An intestinal blockage is a serious condition. It may also cause vomiting, constipation, and other symptoms. A person should seek immediate medical care if they believe they have a bowel obstruction.

Treatments for a bowel obstruction vary, though they often include surgical intervention.

Indigestion is also called dyspepsia or upset stomach. It causes pain, burning, or discomfort in the upper abdomen, radiating to the bellybutton area.

People can often treat indigestion with OTC antacids and acid blockers.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one in four people in America has experienced indigestion. Of those who contact a doctor about indigestion, three in four people are diagnosed with functional dyspepsia.

Functional dyspepsia causes pain in the upper part of the stomach that radiates to the bellybutton. It is an issue that comes and goes and has no known cause.

Similar to indigestion, people can often treat functional dyspepsia with OTC antacids and acid blockers. Prescription acid-suppressive therapies may help when these medications do not.

Constipation is a widespread condition that doctors define as a person having three or fewer bowel movements in a 1-week period, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Almost everyone gets constipated from time to time, and constipation that lasts a short time is not serious. People can treat occasional constipation with medications such as stool softeners and by adding processed or synthetic fibers to their diet.

However, anyone who experiences constipation for 2 or more months should speak with a doctor.

Other potential causes of bellybutton pain include pain after surgery, bacterial infections, and gastroenteritis.

Pain after surgery

Most of the time, the pain caused by surgery will resolve as the body heals. Pain medications may help depending on the severity of pain.

Any severe pain and swelling that includes the following may require further investigation:

People experiencing any of these symptoms should speak with their doctor, as they can be signs of an infection or obstruction.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

UTIs are more common in females than males. However, anyone, including children, can get a UTI. UTIs can cause pain in the abdomen and bellybutton.

Bacteria cause UTIs, and doctors treat them with antibiotics.

Bacterial stomach infection

Harmful gut bacteria can enter the body and live in the digestive tract for many years. With time, bacteria can cause painful sores in the stomach lining and small intestine. Sometimes, these infections put people at higher risk of stomach cancers.

Infections can cause bellybutton pain and pain throughout the abdomen.

Doctors can treat bacterial stomach infections with antibiotics. Once antibiotics start working, bellybutton pain, abdominal pain, and other symptoms will typically resolve.

Gastroenteritis

Commonly known as stomach flu, gastroenteritis can come from consuming contaminated food or drink. Bellybutton pain, stomach pain, and cramping are classic symptoms of gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis typically gets better on its own. However, anyone who experiences dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea, has blood in their stools, cannot keep liquids down, or has symptoms lasting longer than 3 days should speak with a doctor.

Some conditions that cause bellybutton pain are particularly painful. However, most are treatable and curable. There are conditions doctors cannot cure, but they can treat them and manage a person’s pain.

Gallstones

Gallbladder attacks resulting from gallstones are painful, and intense pain is typically the first indicator of a problem. Pain tends to start in the upper right of the abdomen, travels to the upper middle, then through the back.

The primary way to treat gallstone pain is surgery to remove the gallbladder. Once the surgeon removes the gallbladder, the pain will resolve. There are also medications, such as Ursodiol (ursodeoxycholic acid), which can help dissolve the gallstones.

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a painful condition that causes an inflamed appendix. A review in the Annals of Surgery reported there were almost 400,000 diagnoses of appendicitis in North America in 2015.

Appendicitis can be serious and even result in death.

Untreated appendicitis can cause peritonitis, which occurs if the appendix ruptures and the infection spreads to the abdomen.

Peritonitis is dangerous and potentially fatal inflammation of the stomach lining that covers the stomach’s organs.

Appendix pain typically starts around the bellybutton and radiates throughout the abdomen, often to the right lower quadrant. Pain worsens with any movement, including walking and coughing.

In addition to pain, appendicitis can cause the following symptoms:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • appetite loss
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • fever
  • abdominal bloating or swelling
  • inability to pass gas

Anyone who suspects they have appendicitis because they have severe bellybutton and abdominal pain, or any of the symptoms noted above, should seek immediate medical attention.

Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a medical condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed.

In pancreatitis, digestive enzymes that typically go to the small intestine to help digest food attack the pancreas itself. Bellybutton pain is a classic symptom of an inflamed pancreas.

Pancreatitis is often a chronic condition, and bellybutton pain may never fully resolve. Treatment can help manage chronic pancreatitis.

Small intestine disorder

Small intestine disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, can cause intense pain in and around the bellybutton. These types of conditions are chronic and can be painful. However, they are treatable.

Bellybutton pain has more than one possible cause. The following symptoms with bellybutton pain may require immediate medical attention and should not be ignored:

  • pain with a fever
  • severe pain that affects and prevents daily activity
  • pain that causes waking at night or stops someone in their tracks
  • pain accompanied by severe vomiting
  • pain with bloody stools
  • pain resulting from an injury

Bellybutton pain is not serious most of the time. However, it can be in some cases. Determining the cause of abdominal pain can help a person manage it with appropriate treatments.

Anyone experiencing painful or unusual bellybutton pain should bring it to their doctor’s attention.

There are many reasons a person can experience bellybutton pain. Some causes can be minor, including indigestion, constipation, and pregnancy. Others may be more serious, such as gallstones, appendicitis, or pancreatitis.

Bellybutton pain can range in severity from mild to sharp. A person may feel it near the bellybutton, the upper or lower abdominal area, and possibly beyond, depending on the underlying cause of the pain. Anyone experiencing bellybutton pain should talk with their doctor to determine whether the cause is serious.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause.