Hydronephrosis is one of the most commonly diagnosed fetal anomalies, and occurs when one or both of a baby’s kidneys become enlarged due to urine blockage.

Normally, urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder through thin tubes called ureters. If your baby has blocked urine flow or urine reflux, a reversal of urine flow, their kidneys will begin to swell, resulting in this condition.

Hydronephrosis is often diagnosed before a baby is born during a prenatal ultrasound. If left untreated, hydronephrosis may lead to a urinary tract infection or cause pain in the abdomen.

There are three stages of hydronephrosis:

  • Mild: in 50% of cases, the kidneys are slightly impacted, and resolve on their own
  • Moderate: symptoms are limited, with no significant decrease in kidney function
  • Severe: kidneys have decreased function with a risk of kidney damage

If your baby has been diagnosed with hydronephrosis, we understand the worry and anxiety you may have. Our leading team of specialists at the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute are uniquely equipped to help you and your baby. Working with a multidisciplinary team of fetal surgeons, pediatric doctors and nurses, we comprehensively monitor and treat this condition, using the safest techniques to treat your child before or after delivery.

How Is Hydronephrosis Diagnosed?

Hydronephrosis is detected typically by ultrasound around 14 weeks of pregnancy. If your doctor finds hydronephrosis on an initial ultrasound, repeat ultrasounds will be performed throughout your pregnancy. These ultrasounds help the Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute team monitor your baby’s growth, kidneys and amniotic fluid levels.

How Is Hydronephrosis Handled During Pregnancy?

Babies with hydronephrosis tend to not have other birth defects or physical problems, and can be treated after delivery. However, in rare cases when hydronephrosis causes oligohydramnios, or too little amniotic fluid, the team can perform surgery to drain the fluid from the bladder, allowing it to flow into the amniotic sac.

How Will Hydronephrosis Impact My Delivery?

Babies with hydronephrosis are typically born via a vaginal delivery. However, your unique situation is important in determining the best birthing scenario.

What Can I Expect When My Baby Is Born With Hydronephrosis?

Hydronephrosis often heals on its own after a baby is born. In rare cases, surgery will be necessary to restore the flow of urine. Typically, babies born with hydronephrosis show no lasting effects of the condition.

An SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital pediatric urologist will help you determine the best course of treatment for your little one after delivery.

We understand that hydronephrosis 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 best start in life.

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