What is Intestinal Atresia?
Intestinal atresia is a narrowing, blockage, or absence of a portion of the small or large intestine.
What causes Intestinal Atresia?
It is thought that fetal intestinal atresia is caused by a problem with the blood supply to the intestines, such as a blood clot, during development.
How is Intestinal Atresia diagnosed?
Intestinal atresia is diagnosed via ultrasound during the second or third trimester. It can also be discovered when the mother develops polyhydraminos (the build-up of too much amniotic fluid in the uterus).
How is Intestinal Atresia managed and treated during pregnancy?
Intestinal atresia does not require fetal intervention. These babies are monitored for fetal compromise, which could be a sign of additional damage to the intestine. In some cases this increased damage would require an early delivery of the baby.
What can I expect after my baby is born with Intestinal Atresia?
Babies born with intestinal atresia are typically treated with surgery to repair the intestine after they are born. Many of them require a stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) where they will receive nutrition through an IV until their intestines begin working properly. Once their intestines begin working, they slowly begin receiving breast milk or formula through a gastrostomy tube, or by mouth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding newborns for six months. It has been shown to reduce the incidence of certain gastrointestinal tract infections up to 64%, and reduce the risk of childhood inflammatory bowel disease by 31%.(1)
Following their time in the NICU, these babies require regular follow-up to ensure their intestines are absorbing the nutrients they need, and are developing and growing adequately. A vast majority of these babies will lead a normal life following surgery.
(1) American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.