Birth Defect Leaving Infant’s Intestines Poking Through Hole In Abdominal Wall On The Rise; No One Knows Why
There is an alarming new uptick in the occurrence of a disturbing condition in which fetuses develop a hole in the abdominal wall through which a portion of the baby’s intestines push. It’s called gastroschisis and it can also involve the stomach and liver.
It is a very serious condition–obviously–that can be identified on ultrasound scans, but that requires surgery shortly after birth.
What’s disturbing is that the rate at which gastroschisis occurs in the US has jumped 30 percent over the course of two ten year periods, a rise for which science has no quick and easy answers.
According to the CDC, the prevalence of gastroschisis has increased to 4.9 births out of 10,000 during the period from 2006 to 2012, from 3.6 per 10,000 live births from 1995 to 2005, a rise of about 30 percent.
While these numbers reflect an uptick in the condition across all demographic groups, it has long been known that the condition occurs more frequently in younger mothers, especially mothers who give birth at less than 20 years of age. Young white mothers have babies with the defect more often than young women of other races: 18.1 per 10,000 live births, compared with 16.1 for Hispanic mothers and 10.2 for black mothers.
But during the period that was studied, there was a dramatic increase in the rate at which non-Hispanic black mothers under the age of 20 gave birth to babies with the defect, where there was an increase of 263 percent.
The frightening thing is that such a dramatic increase is thus far inexplicable.
“We don’t know why,” said Coleen A. Boyle, the director of the C.D.C.’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “We continue to be concerned that this condition is increasing, and we do see a more rapid rise among non-Hispanic black teens.”
And while it is known that women who drink or smoke are more likely to give birth to a baby with gastroschisis, the CDC is quick to point out that those are risk factors, but not causes. As the agency said on its website: “Public health research is urgently needed to identify the causal factor(s) contributing to this increase.”
Indeed. If only there were a government agency with nearly unlimited funding tasked with finding such things out in an honest manner that would examine all possible causes, including environmental ones like toxins, medications used during pregnancy and the ubiquity of plastics in our food and water.
But of course such a study would very likely inconvenience business as usual, and thus probably won’t take place.