Birth Defect: Gastroschisis
Gastroschisis is an opening in a baby’s abdomen usually to the right of the umbilical cord, which allows intestines, and sometimes the stomach, liver and other internal organs to protrude through. There is no sac or protective coating around the organs.
“As the fetus grows, the opening may become smaller and may tighten around the intestine, or the bowel could twist around itself. This can lead to poor function of the bowel after delivery as well as long-term feeding problems … Normally, during early development, the intestines, stomach and liver protrude to the outside of the body. As the fetus grows, these organs are ‘pulled in’ and the abdominal wall forms around them.” (CHB) In gastroschisis, this does not happen.Gastroschisis happens in approximately 1 out of every 5,000 live births in the United States.
How does Gastroschisis affect my Pregnancy?
Gastroschisis usually occurs on its own without being associated with any other birth defects or any chromosomal disorders. If gastroschisis is present, it will affect alpha feto-protein screening tests, and diagnosis will be confirmed via ultrasound.
Babies are often smaller than normal and will be monitoring closely in utero via ultrasound imaging. Stillbirth happens in about 10 percent of cases.
Babies with gastroschisis can be and are usually born vaginally.
(Please see Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for more specific details about what to expect during and following the reparation surgery.)
Risk factors and treatments of Gastroschisis
While researchers are still trying to determine what causes these defects, the CDC reports several risk factors that have come out of their studies:
- Being a teenage mother (the condition is virtually unheard of in mothers over 30 (CHW))
- Being a white teenager rather than African-American
- Consumption of alcohol or smoking
- Use of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) during pregnancy
- Urinary tract infection just prior to or early on in pregnancy
Surgery to place the exposed organs back into the abdomen and close the opening will be done immediately after birth.
“The only problems that are common with these babies are related to their gastrointestinal system. Approximately 20 to 40 percent will have some type of gastrointestinal abnormality such as: malrotation (bowel is not in correct position), atresia (passage is blocked), volvulus (twisting of the bowel, blood supply can be cut off), or infarction (blood supply has been cut off and that area will be damaged)” (CHW) and as many as 75 percent of babies born with gastroschisis will be classified as growth-restricted.
The long-term prognosis for babies following surgery is extremely good. He or she will likely require medications to prevent or control acid reflux for the first few months post-operatively, but there are not usually any long-term effects.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Gastroschisis. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Web. Mar 20, 2012.
Gastroschisis. Children’s Hospital Boston. Web. Mar 20, 2012.
Birth Defects: Facts about Gastroschisis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. Mar 20, 2012.