The reason you have an innie or an outie

Whether you have an innie or outie is generally down to chance. [Photo: Getty]
Whether you have an innie or outie is generally down to chance. [Photo: Getty]

Do you have an innie or an outie?

While we may not pay much attention to our belly buttons (thanks to the demise of the Britney Spears naval piercing era), we all know what we’ve got – but we may not know why they differ from person to person.

Some sport a deep, “innie” style button, while others might have a convex “outie” style which protrudes outwards from the stomach.

Why do you have an innie or an outie?

“A belly button is simply the area which marks where the umbilical cord was connected to your body while you were in your mother’s womb,” says Dr. Diana Gall, MD, GP at Doctor4U, a confidential online doctor service.

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She adds: “Once a child is born the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, leaving a small part of the umbilical cord left attached to the child’s stomach. Over the next couple of weeks, the umbilical cord will dry and eventually fall off. What will be left in its place is a belly button.”

While a common myth is that your innie/outie status is determined by how your umbilical cord is cut at birth, Gall explains it’s actually “completely out of the doctor’s control” and has more to do with how the umbilical cord is naturally attached to the body.

Therefore, it is completely down to chance whether you have an innie or an outie.

Outies are sometimes associated with umbilical hernias – where the intestine bulges through the umbilical opening – a phenomenon more common in premature and low weight babies. The condition is usually harmless but in rare cases may require a later surgery after the age of four.

Another condition that may cause an outie is an umbilical granuloma.

This is where “the umbilical falls off and tissue can form in the belly button in the form of a small red lump. It can be covered in clear or yellow discharge, but it will usually go away on its own and won’t bother the baby,” explains Gall.

Will your belly button ever change?

In general, no, says Gall.

The exception to this is when a woman gets pregnant, which may temporarily affect the shape of their belly button.

Gall explains: “The expansion of the uterus during pregnancy puts pressure on the abdomen and pushes it forward to cause an innie belly button to become an outie.”

This is a “normal and harmless” change occurring around the second or third trimester of pregnancy, and your belly button is likely to return to its original shape shortly after you give birth.

A small number of people undergo a cosmetic surgery procedure known as umbilicoplasty to change the shape of their belly button.

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Generally, this is to change an outie belly button to an innie, she says, as the latter is considered “more desirable” by most people.

Is it better to have an innie or an outie?

While some may favour the look of one kind of belly button compared to another, Gall stresses that medically “it doesn’t matter” – the only exception being “if the outie is caused by an umbilical hernia”.

This occurs more commonly in babies, as aforementioned, but might also happen in adulthood which may present more complications and will require surgery to repair.

“Hernias can be caused by constipation, lifting heavy weights, surgery, and sudden weight gain among other things,” adds Gall.