Gastroschisis is a birth defect in which a baby’s abdominal wall doesn’t form fully during fetal development. As a result, a baby’s intestines protrude outside the belly, which can cause complications such as preterm delivery and poor fetal growth.
Most babies with gastroschisis can be delivered vaginally without additional complications. After delivery, the treatment of choice for gastroschisis is surgical repair. This surgery effectively closes the abdominal wall defect and is performed the same day your baby is born.
How Is Gastroschisis Managed During Pregnancy?
Gastroschisis can be diagnosed as early as 14 weeks into a pregnancy through a routine ultrasound.
When are you referred to the Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute with a diagnosis of gastroschisis, our dedicated and multi-disciplinary team focus on monitoring you and your baby’s health. This includes performing ultrasounds and fetal heart rate monitoring (nonstress test) to carefully watch for any signs of fetal distress.
If doctors notice that the hole in the abdomen is closing too tightly around the intestines, early delivery may be needed. Many babies with gastroschisis arrive a few weeks early, around 36 to 37 weeks.
During your pregnancy, you will meet with our neonatologists and pediatric surgeons to decide the best treatment for your child after delivery. You will also have the opportunity to visit our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where your baby will receive the necessary care before and after surgery.
How Will Gastroschisis Affect My Baby After Delivery?
At SSM Health, your little one will receive the specialized care in a state-of-the art hospital that has the equipment, team and experience to meet their need. When your baby is born, their exposed intestines will be covered with a special, sterile plastic bag, and a nasogastric (NG) tube will be inserted through the nose or mouth. This tube prevents your baby from choking and breathing stomach contents into the lungs.
In more severe cases, your baby will receive a silo, a special silicone sack that is placed over the exposed intestines. Over the course of a few days, the sack is made smaller and smaller, pushing the intestines back into the abdomen. Once the intestines are back in the abdomen, the muscle and skin are closed over the hole.
From here, your baby will spend four to six weeks in the NICU following surgery. In the NICU, your baby receives the full range of support, including help breathing, feeding and reducing pain. It will take a while for your baby to develop the contractions needed to help move food through the intestinal tract. When this kicks in, your baby will start feeding normally and can head home.
In rare cases, babies with gastroschisis may have a bowel obstruction, or part of the intestine narrowed or missing (atresia), which may require additional surgery.
Your baby might also be smaller at birth due to this condition. But most babies with gastroschisis tend to catch up with other children their age and go on to develop normally.
We understand that gastroschisis can be a scary diagnosis. That’s why we’re available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us at 314-268-4037 or toll free at 877-SSM-FETL (877-776-3385).
While we can’t change the diagnosis, we can provide you expert care and support, helping your baby get the most out of treatment and life.