What is a Neonatal/Pediatric Hernia
A neonatal or pediatric hernia is a bulging in the body caused by an intra-abdominal structure, like the bowels or the omentum, which protrude through a defect in the abdominal wall of a baby or small child.
These are most commonly diagnosed when a child is born, and sometimes while they are still in their mother’s womb, through imaging technology. There are less common types of hernias which affect children, however, the inguinal hernia, as it is termed, affects the largest number.
Boys are most commonly affected by this health condition. Hernias also appear more often in babies who are born prematurely, as their stomach muscles do not have time to finish growing before birth.
An inguinal hernia usually forms during fetal life. It happens when a small sac which comes from the inguinal ring – a triangular opening which forms at the exit of the inguinal canal, a part of the genital branched nerves and the spermatic cord – doesn’t close as it normally does.
When the sac doesn’t close, it allows abdominal organs to come through the ring into the groin. In boys, it usually affects a part of their bowels, and in girls it could be a portion of the bowels or ovaries. These hernias usually appear first as a bulge in the groin, and may come and go, but usually without surgery or some other intervention, they grow worse, and cause discomfort for the child. The hernia will most often “pop out” when the child cries or strains to make a bowel movement. If only fluid (and no tissue) comes through the hernia, the problem is called a hydrocele.
How Will I Know if My Baby Has a Hernia?
Your baby’s doctor may spot a hernia when your baby is born but often, it is not discovered until the child grows a bit older. When the hernia is small, it may cause him to cry when he uses the bathroom, tenses his abdominal muscles (when he cries, coughs, laughs, etc.) or starts to walk and crawl. If you see any bumps or protrusions in the skin, this can indicate a hernia.
Why It Is Important to Treat Pediatric Hernia
Complications can arise from an untreated pediatric hernia. An inguinal hernia does not go away without being addressed medically. If the sac is left open, a portion of the bowels can become trapped in the sac, causing swelling, and more serious complications. The portion of the organ that is trapped in the sac can lose blood supply, and eventually die, causing yet more health complications.
Emergency Signs that Your Child’s Hernia is Getting Worse
Your child may experience a hard, red, painful lump in his or her groin, vomiting, or may have difficulty going the restroom, and lose their appetite. This is an emergency. If the hernia cannot be pushed back (reduced) into the abdominal cavity, you will be asked to schedule an immediate surgery for your child.
What Causes a Neonatal/Pediatric Hernia?
Doctors do not understand fully why pediatric hernias form. Due to the lack of ample scientific study on their cause, the only remedy offered is surgery. There are no allopathic, preventative indications for this health problem which affects so many children.
Allopathic Cures for Neonatal/Pediatric Hernia
There are a few different types of surgeries recommended for neonatal/pediatric hernia by allopathic medicine.
Minimally invasive surgeries offer advantages such as smaller incisions, decreased risk of infection, greater surgical precision, decreased cost of care, reduced length of stay, and better clinical information. Most commonly they are:
Laparoscopy – This surgery type utilizes a thin, lighted tube put through a cut (incision) in the belly to look at the abdominal organs, the female pelvic organs, of the cause of a hernia. Laparoscopy is also used to find problems such as cysts, adhesions, fibroids, and infection. Tissue samples can be taken for biopsy through the tube, called a laparoscope.
Thoracoscopy – This type of surgery is most often used on newborns. It is video-assisted so that the surgeon can better see what he is doing inside the abdominal cavity. This approach seems to lessen damage to the intestines and other abdominal tissues, which often lead to an unsuccessful laparascopic surgery which then requires a follow up surgery. Multiple surgeries, as you might imagine, are costly, uncomfortable, and take time for a child to heal from, as well as leave behind scar tissue. (The average hospital stay for just one of these surgeries is around 27 days.)
Natural Cures for Neonatal/Pediatric Hernia
Natural cures for pediatric hernia are many, with some of them being scientifically validated, and others, simply utilized for hundreds of years through alternative medicine approaches.
Food Therapies for Pediatric Hernia
Elson Haas, M.D., director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California states that a hernia can result from an abdominal muscle wall that is protein-deficient. He suggests eating more low-fat sources of protein, which include chicken breast, tuna, skim milk and 1 percent cottage cheese. However, plant based protein is thought to be more easily digested by the body, and can reduce inflammation of a hernia that is already causing a child or infant pain. While this therapy wont heal an existing condition, Dr. Haas says, it may help prevent future problems.
Chiropractic Care for an Inguinal Hernia
Chiropractics might also be able to handle this problem. It has bene suggested that a chiropractor can adjust the pelvis to close the inguinal canal. If your child’s hernia is especially large, or causing them pain, a chiropractor may not be able to treat the condition, but only prevent future development of a hernia.
Poultices and Ice Packs
Though ice should never be directly applied to a baby’s skin, you can cover a bag of ice and water with a towel and place it on your baby to reduce swelling associated with a hernia.
There are also several different types of poultices suggested that can be applied directly to the affected area, with caution. Castor seed oil and Aloe Vera juice are both naturally anti-inflammatory and can reduce redness and swelling, without causing irritation to the skin.
Herbal Remedies for Hernia
Both ancient Chinese and Indian medicine suggest that hernia can be treated herbally. The hernia is, in most cases, caused by a weakened small intestine. The small intestine drops into the scrotum, which then causes swelling. The hiatal hernia often seen in children happens for this reason, as well as complications through pregnancy or birth defects.
Licorice root, for example, is known to help heal tissues of the abdominal cavity. Chamomile can also be made into a tea or poultice, and is very soothing. This herb also reduces inflammation and swelling. It also relaxes the muscles of gastrointestinal tract.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine for Pediatric Hernia
From a strictly TCM approach, 8 different acupuncture points can help with hernia conditions, which are thought to strengthen the abdominal wall and cause the opening to seal. In conjunction with acupuncture, herbs may be prescribed, from many hundreds used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Homeopathic Remedies for Several Types of Pediatric Hernia
Nux Vomica is a natural homeopathic medicine which can help in treating all types of Hernias — be it femoral, inguinal or umbilical. It can be given to patients of Hernia in whom the abdominal muscles have been weakened due to long-standing constipation.
Homeopathic medicine Lycopodium Clavatum is another Inguinal hernia remedy, specifically beneficial for treating Inguinal Hernia of right side.
While there are other homeopathic remedies, they are intended for hernias that were caused for different reasons, such as obesity, strain in weight lifting, and other things that small children and infants do not participate in.
Massage by a Maalishwaalis
A skilled masseuse, also called a maalishwaalis, may be able to massage a hernia back into place. Followed by herbal remedies it may be possible to close the opening that is allowing the gut to protrude, and cause the hernia.
This method should be used with extreme caution however, since, many masseuses may not be skilled enough to do this procedure correctly, and pressing on the abdominal region without care can make the problem worse. It also depends on what kind of hernia your baby has, and how bad it is.
Though a pediatric/neonatal hernia is a serious health complication that should not be ignored, there are multiple avenues of correcting the problem.
Without treatment, a child’s bowels can be adversely affected for the long term, so at the first sign of a possible hernia (even days after birth) you should at least have your child examined and diagnosed for the hernia.
From there, you can choose to schedule a surgical procedure, if your doctor suggests it, or if the hernia is mild, try to remedy the underlying weakness in the abdominal muscles, and intestines with acupuncture, herbs, food, massage, homeopathics, etc.
The quick diagnosis and care for your baby will lessen their discomfort and ensure that the hernia does not grow larger, which can make treatment options more limited.