According to a scary new CDC report, there has been an alarming increase in a birth defect called gastroschisis, which results in a newborn's intestines, and sometimes liver and stomach, poking through his abdomen. Even scarier: No one knows exactly what's causing the condition to appear more frequently.
Here's what we do know: After tracking data in 14 states, researchers noted that incidences of gastroschisis doubled from 1995 to 2005, and are continuing to grow. Among non-Hispanic black women under 21 years of age, the rate has increased an incredible 263 percent, although the defect is increasing among moms of all races and ages. Each year, about 1,871 babies are born with gastroschisis.
"It concerns us that we don't know why more babies are being born with this serious birth defect," says Coleen Boyle from the Centers for Disease Control. "Public health research is urgently needed to figure out the cause and why certain women are at higher risk of having a baby born with gastroschisis."
In fact, doctors and scientists aren't even sure if the defect is due to genetics, exposure to something during pregnancy, or a combination of those two factors. The factors they have identified that can raise a woman's risk are drinking and/or smoking during pregnancy, and getting pregnant very young.
The good news: Gastroschisis can be corrected through surgery once a baby is born, although the child may experience long-term challenges such as trouble absorbing nutrients, digestive issues, and a higher risk of complications and even death.
Despite the alarming nature of this report, the takeaway seems to be you should stay away from alcohol and cigarettes while you are pregnant, and be sure to seek comprehensive prenatal care. Beyond that, we can hope researchers are soon able to pinpoint why this frightening congenital defect is on the rise, and how we can prevent its continued growth.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.