The findings revealed that there were 30 percent more cases of gastroschisis in the period between 2006 and 2012, than from 1995 to 2005. Incidences of the disease among young African American mothers, younger than 20, have increased dramatically, with cases of babies born with gastroschisis in that demographic group having risen 263 percent.
From The Washington Post:
“Though doctors have been familiar with gastroschisis for years, no one quite knows what causes infants to be born with their intestines and other visceral organs — the stomach, the liver — protruding through a small hole near their belly button. It’s more common to babies in younger mothers, according to the CDC, and low socio-economic status, low body mass index, poor nutrition, smoking and use of alcohol, illicit drugs and pain medicine are thought to be risk factors. Perhaps there is some harmful environmental factor that inhibits the development of the abdominal wall during pregnancy. Or perhaps the babies born with gastroschisis have some genetic defect that leaves them vulnerable.”
CDC researchers plan to investigate further why cases are suddenly on the rise, particularly among African American mothers, since they “are typically less likely to be affected.”
Costly and lengthy recovery
Around 2,000 cases of gastroschisis occur yearly, and although the babies usually survive, the treatment can be complicated and costly, often involving lengthy recovery periods. Babies born with the defect may spend up to six weeks or more in neonatal intensive care units.
Aside from the cost of such care, the recovery period must undoubtedly be a terrifying ordeal for the mothers and families involved. And, as already mentioned, the condition may lead to later health issues.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“Though the abnormality can be life-threatening, it is often surgically repaired soon after birth. But because the affected organs are irritated by their exposure to amniotic fluid inside a mother’s uterus, they can twist, swell, shorten and become infected.
“As a result, babies born with the defect can have ongoing digestive and feeding problems. Some also have difficulty staying hydrated and absorbing nutrients from food, which can increase their risk of a range of medical problems, including stunted growth and malnutrition.
“If the number of exposed internal organs is large, surgery must sometimes be done in stages.”
What can be done to prevent gastroschisis?
It seems that the disease is likely caused – at least to some extent – by environmental factors and/or lifestyle choices, the latter of which pregnant mothers and those who plan to become pregnant have a large degree of control over.
Many of these lifestyle factors are already well-known: smoking, drugs and drinking should always be avoided before and during pregnancy, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that diet and nutrition play a major role in the health of newborns.
If you are pregnant or planning to have children in the future, do yourself and your unborn children a favor: Don’t smoke, drink or use drugs; avoid unhealthy dietary choices (eat healthy organic foods and avoid processed foods); and avoid using any prescription or over-the-counter painkillers, unless absolutely necessary.
And although toxins in the environment are beyond direct control, a healthy organic diet will minimize a mother’s exposure to harmful chemicals that may contribute to birth defects such as gastroschisis.
Your newborn’s health is directly related to your own healthy, natural lifestyle. If you take good care of yourself before and during pregnancy, your chances of giving birth to a healthy baby are greatly increased.