Bellybutton pain can occur for many reasons, such as an infection, an umbilical hernia, pregnancy, or a problem with the digestive system. A doctor can help resolve any underlying issues.

Anyone experiencing bellybutton pain or “periumbilical” pain should talk with a doctor to determine the cause. Many minor conditions can cause pain in the navel area and may even radiate to other areas, 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.
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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 experiencing 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 with 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

Learn more about umbilical hernias.

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 (NIDDK), 1 in 4 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.

Learn more about medications for indigestion.

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 NIDDK.

Almost everyone gets constipated occasionally, 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 two months or more should speak with a doctor.

Read about 13 home remedies for constipation.

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.

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.


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.


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. Medications, such as Ursodiol (ursodeoxycholic acid), can help dissolve the gallstones.


Appendicitis is a painful condition that causes an inflamed appendix. It is most common in people aged 5–45 and occurs in approximately 5–9 in every 100 people.

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 a 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 should seek immediate medical attention.


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.

Below are frequently asked questions relating to belly button pain.

Does bellybutton pain mean appendicitis?

Bellybutton pain does not always mean appendicitis, but it can be a symptom. Appendicitis pain typically starts around the bellybutton and radiates across the abdomen, often to the right lower quadrant. Appendicitis pain will worsen with any movement.

Can touching your bellybutton cause pain?

Pressing on or around the bellybutton can cause pain if done too hard. It can also indicate a problem with the abdominal wall, such as a hernia or gastrointestinal discomfort.

Should I go to the ER for bellybutton pain?

The following symptoms with bellybutton pain may require immediate medical attention:

  • 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 can help a person manage it with appropriate treatments.

Anyone experiencing very painful or unusual bellybutton pain should discuss it with a doctor.

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 a doctor to determine the cause.