Fetal Bowel Obstruction

Your amniotic fluid level and your baby's growth should be carefully monitored. You may be at risk for early delivery, as polyhydramnios can lead to preterm labor. You and your obstetrician will determine your delivery plan.

Your baby should be born at a hospital with an intensive care nursery and a pediatric surgeon. Soon after birth, your child will have surgery to repair the abnormal piece of intestine.

The pediatric surgeon will repair your baby's intestine in one of two ways. If the narrowing is small, the surgeon may be able to remove the damaged segment, taper the dilated portion, and sew the two ends of the intestine together.

If the narrowing is long, or if the surgeon believes the intestine is damaged and cannot be used for a period of time, a temporary stoma may be placed. A stoma is a surgically created opening in the abdomen for the discharge of waste. With the stoma in place, stool will pass through the stoma rather than through the anus. The stoma is usually temporary, and the baby will need another operation to reconnect the intestine and close the stoma.

It isn't possible to predict ahead of time which procedure will be performed. The surgeon decides in the operating room, after looking at the intestine.

Babies with bowel obstruction may stay in the hospital anywhere from one week to one month, depending on the amount of intestine involved. Babies are discharged from the hospital when they are taking all their feedings by mouth and gaining weight.

Most babies with bowel obstruction do not have long-term problems. However, after discharge from the hospital, your baby is at risk for bowel obstruction due to scar tissue or a kink in a loop of bowel caused by the first operation.

Symptoms of bowel obstruction include:

  • Bilious (green) vomiting
  • Bloated stomach
  • No interest in feeding

If any of these symptoms occur, contact your pediatrician immediately.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Intensive Care Nursery
1975 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1565
Fax: (415) 353-1202

Fetal Treatment Center
1855 Fourth St., Second Floor, Room A-2432
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (800) 793-3887
Fax: (415) 502-0660
Appointment information

Surgery Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5B
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-2538
Fax: (415) 476-2929
Appointment information