Monitoring the Baby and Preparing for Delivery

Babies with gastroschisis should be carefully monitored throughout the pregnancy for intrauterine growth retardation — not growing enough while in the womb — and for damage to the intestines. Intestines can be damaged by exposure to the amniotic fluid or by impaired blood flow to the exposed intestine.

Since most fetuses with gastroschisis do well with regular ultrasound observation and near-term delivery at an appropriate hospital, the most important decisions relate to where to deliver and the medical team who will care for your baby before and after birth.

Babies with gastroschisis should be delivered at a center where the intestines can be immediately covered and kept warm and moist until surgical repair or silo placement can be performed. The biggest threat to the baby and to the intestine's condition is to have to transport the baby to another medical center or in any way delay the repair.

Therefore, delivery plans should be coordinated with your perinatologist (an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies), neonatologist (a pediatrician who specializes in caring for newborns) and pediatric surgeon.

Contrary to previous belief, babies with gastroschisis do not have to be delivered via Caesarean section. Delivering your baby vaginally will not harm you or your baby.

Treatment After Birth

Your baby should be born at a hospital with an intensive care nursery and a pediatric surgeon available. Soon after birth, your child will have surgery to close the opening in the abdominal wall and return the organs to the abdomen. The pediatric surgeon will attempt to close the opening at the time of surgery, but sometimes this is not possible.

If the gastroschisis is too large, a silo is placed. A silo is a covering placed over the abdominal organs on the outside of the baby. Gradually, the organs are squeezed by hand through the silo into the opening and returned to the body. This method can take up to a week.

Babies with gastroschisis can spend anywhere from two weeks up to three to four months in the hospital. Because your baby's intestine will have been floating in amniotic fluid for months, it will be swollen and will not function well. The function of the gastrointestinal tract and the baby's ability to tolerate feedings will determine the length of the hospital stay. Babies are discharged from the hospital when they are taking all their feedings by mouth and gaining weight.

After discharge from the hospital, your baby has a small risk for developing bowel obstruction due to scar tissue or a kink in a loop of bowel. 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

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