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Rise in Birth Defect Gastroschisis

Unfortunately, birth defects impact new parents and infants on somewhat regular basis. Indeed, according to a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), birth defects are “common, costly, and critical,” and they affect about one out of every 33 babies born in the U.S. each year. Yet not all birth defects occur at the same rate. To be sure, some happen more than others. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the rate of a birth defect of the abdominal wall known as gastroschisis is increasing.

What do you need to know about gastroschisis? And are there ways to prevent this serious birth defect?

Prevalence of Abdominal Wall Birth Defect

What is gastroschisis? In short, it is a birth defect of the abdominal wall that results in an infant being born “with intestines poking out of a hole in the abdominal wall,” according to the article. And it is not only the intestines that can be affected. To be sure, the article emphasizes that “other organs, such as the stomach and liver, may also be found outside the body at birth.” Given the seriousness of this birth defect, it is important to take steps to prevent it.

Yet the CDC recently reported that the prevalence of gastroschisis has risen drastically in the last couple of decades—by around 30 percent between 1995 and 2012. To put that number another way, between 1995 and 2005, the CDC reported a rate of gastroschisis at 3.6 per 10,000 live births. That number rose to 4.9 per 10,000 live births between 2006 and 2012.

Are some expectant mothers at higher risk than others? Right now, research suggests that this severe birth defects tends to occur more often in mothers who are under the age of 20, but the rate of gastroschisis has increased among expectant mothers of all ages. The most salient rise in the rate of gastroschisis, however, occurred in babies born to non-Hispanic black mothers under the age of 20. For new mothers in that group, the rate of gastroschisis rose by 263 percent.

Reasons for the Rise in Gastroschisis

What causes gastroschisis? According to Coleen A. Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, we know that rates of gastroschisis are higher among women who drink alcohol or smoke during their pregnancies. However, Boyle emphasizes that “those are risk factors, not causes,” and “we don’t know if those risk factors are contributing to the increase.” To be sure, Boyle and other researchers simply have not pinpointed a clear reason for the rise in gastroschisis. Yet the numbers are startling, and researchers need to learn more about underlying causes. We do know that the number of teenagers having babies has decreased since 1995, so there is no correlation between a rise in mothers under the age of 20 and a rise in gastroschisis.

How is the birth defect identified and treated? In short, gastroschisis often is identified while the mother is still pregnant during a routine ultrasound. Then, once the baby is born, surgery is needed quickly to “put the abdominal organs back in the body and to repair the abdominal wall,” the article notes. Gastroschisis often is not fatal, but it can result in long-term complications.

In some cases, birth defects result from medical negligence. If you have questions about filing a claim for compensation, an experienced Philadelphia birth injury attorney can help. Contact Cohen, Placitella, & Roth, PC to discuss your case today.

Contact us for your consultation (215) 567-3500

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