July is Gastroschisis Awareness month, during which we take time to raise awareness about this condition, and to offer information and support to those impacted.
Approximately 2,000 babies are born in the U.S. each year with gastroschisis, a condition that occurs early in pregnancy when the baby’s abdominal wall does not form properly. Abdominal organs, such as the intestines and gonads protrude outside of the abdominal wall just to the right of the belly button.
Babies born with gastroschisis have a more than 90 percent survival rate and are likely to develop normally long term, but they do require special attention before and after delivery. It is important for them to be monitored prenatally, delivered and cared for by an experienced team of specialists such as those at the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Fetal Care Institute.
Gastroschisis is typically diagnosed via routine ultrasounds during the first few months of pregnancy. The team at the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute carefully monitors babies until delivery with regular ultrasounds (to identify potential intestinal complications and to track growth).
The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute also helps prepare families through prenatal consultations about delivery planning, necessary post-natal surgical repair, and the comprehensive care available in the Level IV Dana Brown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). These consultations include meeting specialists from the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Gastroenterology and GI surgery group, which was recently recognized as one of the best in the country by U.S. News and World Report, and tours of the state of the art NICU.
Most babies born with gastroschisis are born a few weeks early, but can usually be delivered vaginally. After delivery, the baby’s exposed intestines are covered with a sterile plastic cover, and a nasogastric (NG) is inserted to decompress the intestines and prepare the baby for surgery. Babies with gastroschisis often undergo surgery to close the abdominal wall defect the day they are born. They then spend several weeks in the NICU, where doctors control their pain and nutrition while their intestines heal enough to begin working on their own.
Learn more about Gastroschisis and the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute approach here.