What is Gastroschisis?
Gastroschisis is a birth defect of the belly or abdominal wall that occurs in 1 out of every 2000 babies. The birth defect develops early in the mother’s pregnancy and creates an opening in the abdominal wall. The baby’s intestines then “pop out” or protrude through the hole. The baby’s intestines then develop unprotected and exposed outside the baby’s body. This can lead to intestinal damage, twisting, or swelling. Usually, only the intestines push through the hole but in severe cases, the stomach and liver can also make their way through the opening. The mother does not experience any symptoms while the gastroschisis is occurring.
What Causes Gastroschisis?
The exact cause of gastroschisis is still unknown. Gastroschisis is not hereditary. Therefore, having one baby with gastroschisis does not mean the next child will have gastroschisis.
- Younger maternal age: studies have shown that teenagers are more likely to have a baby with gastroschisis compared to older mothers.
- Smoking and alcohol: mothers who consume alcohol or smoke are more likely to have a baby with gastroschisis compared to mothers who do not.
How Do I Determine if My Baby has Gastroschisis?
- Ultrasound performed between 18-20 weeks of pregnancy will detect gastroschisis.
- Gastroschisis will be immediately seen when the baby is born.
- Gastroschisis cannot be corrected during pregnancy. Currently, there are no recommended fetal interventions while the mother is pregnant to correct the defect.
- Gastroschisis is corrected through surgery after the baby is born. A baby cannot survive with their intestines outside the body.
The primary focus initially is recovering from the surgical repairs and successfully having the baby feed and grow. After that, most babies with gastroschisis will have a normal, healthy life without complications. Long-term problems can occur in the more severe cases of gastroschisis.
July 30, 2017, is Gastroschisis Awareness Day. Avery’s Angels is a foundation that helps families affected by gastroschisis through connecting with other families and raising awareness.