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    Stomach Birth Defect Rate Increased Over 2 Decades

    Gastroschisis, a hole in the abdominal wall, more common in babies born to teen mothers

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Steven Reinberg

    HealthDay Reporter

    THURSDAY, Jan. 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A birth defect involving the stomach called gastroschisis has been increasing among U.S. infants for decades, and more than doubled among young, black mothers over an 18-year period, federal health officials report.

    Babies with gastroschisis have a hole in the stomach wall at birth through which the intestines, and sometimes other organs such as the liver, protrude. The condition requires immediate surgery. Most babies do well after the operation, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

    "We don't know why gastroschisis is increasing," said Suzanne Gilboa, team leader and an epidemiologist in the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

    Despite the increase, the disorder is still rare. About 2,000 babies in the United States are born each year with gastroschisis, the CDC said.

    What causes the condition isn't known, Gilboa said. However, some possible risk factors have been identified. These include smoking, illegal drug use, alcohol use, and being underweight before getting pregnant. "But we don't know if these are the explanation for what we are seeing," Gilboa said.

    The report was published in the Jan. 22 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

    "The concerning part of this is the inexorable rise in gastroschisis going back to the 1970s," said Dr. Edward McCabe, senior vice president and chief medical officer at the March of Dimes.

    More research is needed, he said. "When you see something rising as fast as this is in all population groups, and in all ages, it tells you something serious is going on. We need to try and figure out what it is so we can prevent the rise," McCabe said.

    Surgery returns the protruding organs into the baby's body and seals the stomach wall. Even after surgery, however, babies can have problems eating or digesting food. In some cases, the condition can be life-threatening, Gilboa said.

    Gastroschisis is a surgical emergency, McCabe said. "Babies still die from infection after surgery," he added.

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