Bleeding from the belly button can occur for several reasons, most of which are treatable and not a cause for concern.
This article discusses some different causes of belly button bleeding, what symptoms to look for, and how to treat it.
The sections below discuss some factors that may cause a person’s belly button to bleed:
Numerous microorganisms naturally inhabit the surface of the skin. The skin’s microbiome helps support the immune system by protecting the body against potentially harmful foreign pathogens.
However, disrupting this delicate ecosystem can lead to bacterial or fungal overgrowth. Bacteria including staphylococcus and streptococcus can cause a type of skin infection called cellulitis.
An overgrowth of the candidiasis fungus — which lives in the mouth, throat, and vagina, as well as on the skin — can cause yeast infections.
The symptoms may vary depending on what organism caused the infection.
Some general symptoms of an infection in the belly button include:
- redness or skin discoloration in or around the belly button
- itching or swelling of the affected skin
- a tender mass that bleeds or releases a foul-smelling discharge
- fever or chills
- nausea or vomiting
If a doctor suspects a skin infection, they may collect a sample of skin or pus from the belly button.
A laboratory technician will then analyze the sample for different bacterial and fungal strains.
A doctor can recommend the best treatment plan once they know the underlying cause of the infection.
Treatments for skin infections vary depending on the cause. A doctor may recommend cleaning the infected skin with warm salt water if a person has a bacterial infection.
Otherwise, they can prescribe an oral or topical antibiotic.
A doctor can treat a yeast infection by prescribing antifungal ointments or powders.
Cysts are fluid-filled pockets of tissue that can develop anywhere on the body, including the belly button.
An epidermoid cyst occurs when a hair follicle gets clogged with dirt or oil. These cysts can also develop as a result of sun damage, infections, or trauma to the skin.
A cyst in or near the belly button may leak pus or blood if it becomes infected.
Urachal cysts, which are less common, might also cause bloody discharge from the belly button.
The urachus is a tube-like structure that connects the umbilical cord to the bladder. The urachus usually disappears before birth. However, it can remain open in some people.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), urachal cysts can form at any point during a person’s life. That said, they typically affect older children and adults.
Other symptoms of a cyst in or near the belly button include:
- a moveable mass underneath the skin
- redness or skin discoloration
- pain or tenderness
- pain when urinating
A doctor can diagnose a skin cyst during a physical examination. They may ask to touch the cyst to see if it moves.
A doctor can also check for symptoms that suggest an infection, such as tenderness, swelling, and fever.
If the cyst has ruptured, they can collect a sample of the discharge for analysis.
If they suspect a urachal cyst, they may need to conduct a CT or ultrasound scan.
Treatments vary depending on the size and severity of the cyst. Small cysts tend to clear up without any medical intervention.
An infected cyst may require antibiotic treatment, however. A doctor may need to drain or surgically remove large cysts.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus spreads to parts of the body outside of the uterus.
Endometriosis affects at least 11% of females in the United States.
According to the authors of a 2017 case report, tissue spreads to the belly button in around 0.4% to 1% of females with endometriosis.
Endometriosis that involves the belly button can cause a dark, reddish-brown discharge.
Other symptoms include:
- nodules or growths under the skin
- painful menstrual cramps
- persistent pain in the lower back and pelvis
- pain during bowel movements or urination
- bloody stools or blood in the urine
- pain during or after sex
- diarrhea or constipation
- abdominal bloating
- nausea or vomiting
- bleeding between menstrual periods
A doctor can diagnose endometriosis by conducting a pelvic exam and using imaging tests such as MRI scans and ultrasounds.
They may use a procedure called laparoscopy, which allows them to look for abnormal tissue growth inside the pelvic region.
If endometriosis is only located at the belly button, a biopsy of the abnormal tissue at that location would give a definitive diagnosis.
Currently, no cure for endometriosis exists. However, females can manage their symptoms with hormonal birth control, pain medication, and dietary supplements.
A doctor may surgically remove endometriosis tissue. However, they typically reserve this treatment method for severe forms of endometriosis that do not respond to medication.
Shortly after birth, a doctor will cut the umbilical cord, leaving a small section attached to the belly button. This is called the umbilical stump.
Typically, the umbilical stump dries out and falls off after 5–15 days. The remaining wound will close and form the belly button.
Parents and caregivers may notice blood coming from a newborn baby’s umbilical stump. Once the stump falls off, the wound may bleed a little until the skin heals.
However, omphalitis can occur if the belly button becomes infected. It is a rare condition with an incidence rate of just 0.7%.
Symptoms typically appear after 3 days and may include:
- bleeding from the umbilical cord stump
- foul-smelling drainage
- poor feeding
To diagnose omphalitis, a doctor will perform a complete blood count test and collect a sample for analysis.
If a newborn is experiencing symptoms that affect their entire body, a doctor may perform a chest radiograph and urinalysis.
If a parent or caregiver notices gas in the surrounding tissue, they should seek emergency medical attention. Treatment may include surgery.
Otherwise, treatment tends to include antibiotics.
To care for a newborn’s umbilical stump:
- Always wash and sanitize the hands before handling the umbilical stump.
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- Avoid covering the stump with a diaper.
- Avoid using antiseptics, lotions, or alcohol-based products on the umbilical stump.
- Avoid pulling on the cord. Instead, allow it to fall off naturally.
Pregnant women may experience belly button changes. The skin and muscles in the abdomen stretch as the uterus expands to accommodate the growing fetus. This expansion may stretch or tear the skin near the belly button.
Bleeding from an outward-facing belly button can occur if someone accidentally scratches it.
Also, wearing clothes that rub against the belly button can irritate the skin, which can lead to redness, tenderness, and bleeding.
Pregnant women can prevent their belly buttons from bleeding or getting infected by:
- keeping the area clean and dry
- removing any belly button piercings
- applying aloe vera gel to soothe irritated or sensitive skin
A person should contact a doctor if they experience any bleeding in or around the belly button in addition to any of the following symptoms:
- red, swollen skin that is painful or tender to the touch
- severe or persistent pain around the belly button
Belly button bleeding rarely requires emergency medical treatment. Treatments vary depending on the underlying cause.
Doctors can treat infections using oral and topical medications.
A ruptured cyst may heal on its own. Doctors can drain or surgically remove large cysts that do not heal on their own and those that do not respond to medication.
Belly button bleeding can occur for several reasons, including skin infections, cysts, and primary umbilical endometriosis.
Many newborn babies will have minor belly button bleeding while the umbilical stump heals.
People with belly button bleeding may want to consider:
- wearing loose clothing around the stomach to avoid irritating the belly button skin
- maintaining good personal hygiene by bathing regularly with warm water and soap
- keeping the belly button area dry
- keeping any belly button piercings clean
People who notice any signs of infection should speak with a healthcare provider. Depending on the cause, they may prescribe an antifungal or antibiotic medication.
Untreated infections can spread to other areas of the body and cause serious, sometimes life threatening, complications.