More babies are being born with the birth defect gastroschisis and doctors are worried. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown its occurence in newborns hasn't stopped increasing since 1995.
Infants with gastroschisis have a hole in their abdominal wall, an area somewhere near the belly button. Because of this, the baby’s intestines, or sometimes the stomach and liver, spill through the hole and out of the body.
The CDC conducted a study to see if the occurrence of gastroschisis has decreased or increased during the years, and they found that gastroschisis cases have nearly doubled from 1995 to 2005 as it still continues to rise. Data from 2006 to 2012 shows a 30% increase from the 1995 to 2005 numbers.
Based on the data, gastroschisis knows no age or race, but scientists are particularly concerned with non-Hispanic black women as the rate among them has increased to 263%.
What’s worse is that the reason for the increase remains unclear. “It concerns us that we don't know why more babies are being born with this serious birth defect,” said Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Doctors still don’t know if gastroschisis is caused by genetic factors or a mother’s exposure to an unknown factor during pregnancy. Researchers have found, however, that it’s more common in babies of young mothers. The risks are higher as well for moms with poor nutrition, low body mass index, and those who smoke and drink alcohol.
According to the CDC, babies who have gastroschisis need to undergo surgery to put back their internal organs where they belong and to seal up the hole. However, the defect can have other ill-effects. “Even after the repair, infants with gastroschisis can have problems with feeding, digestion of food, and absorption of nutrients.”
Every year, nearly 2,000 children are born with gastroschisis, reports the CDC.
Sources: January 22, 2016. "More babies are being born with organs outside their bodies, and experts have no idea why" (washingtonpost.com) January 22, 2016. "Serious birth defect on the rise, CDC researchers say". (cnn.com) November 12, 2015. "Facts about Gastroschisis" (cdc.gov)