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Learning About Omphalocele and Gastroschisis in Newborns

What are omphalocele and gastroschisis?

Sometimes babies are born with organs that are outside the body.

  • With omphalocele (say "ahm-FAL-oh-seel"), the intestines and sometimes other organs sit outside the belly in a sac at the base of the belly button.
  • With gastroschisis (say "gas-TRAWS-kih-sis"), the intestines stick out through a hole in the wall of the belly near the umbilical cord.

These are congenital conditions. This means your baby was born with them. Your baby may have been born with other problems too. Your doctor will address all your baby's problems in a treatment plan.

Your baby will need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

How are they treated?

  • Your baby will get medicine to prevent infection. The medicine may be given through a blood vessel.
  • Your baby's organs will be kept moist and protected in a special bag or wrapper.
  • Your baby will have one or more surgeries to place the organs back inside the belly and close the opening. The surgeries may be done over time to allow the body to grow and make room for the organs. Your baby will be asleep during these surgeries.

What can you expect?

  • You may see tubes and wires attached to your baby. This can be scary to see. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. The tubes supply air, fluid, and medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
  • If your baby has trouble breathing, the doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To do this, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.
  • You may be concerned that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • The hospital staff will provide the nutrition your baby needs. The doctor may feed your baby through an I.V. that goes into a blood vessel.
  • Your baby will be kept comfortable and warm.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about your baby's condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, get support from friends and family. Ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.

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