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Environmental Public Health Tracking: Gastroschisis Data

A birth defect is a problem that happens while the baby is developing in the mother's body. Most birth defects happen during the first three months of pregnancy. A birth defect may affect how the body looks, works, or both.

Access birth defects data

Gastroschisis is one type of birth defect. Review the FAQs below for more information about gastroschisis.

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Gastroschisis (pronounced gas-troh-skee-sis) is a birth defect where a portion of an infant's intestines come out of the body through a hole next to the umbilical cord. This hole in the body wall can be small or large and other organs, such as the liver, can be involved.

Researchers estimate about 2,000 babies, or 1 out of every 1,953 babies, in the United States are born with gastroschisis each year.*

*Mai CT, Isenburg JL, Canfield MA, Meyer RE, Correa A, Alverson CJ, Lupo PJ, Riehle‐Colarusso T, Cho SJ, Aggarwal D, Kirby RS. "National population‐based estimates for major birth defects, 2010–2014." Birth Defects Research. 2019; 111(18): 1420-1435.

Infants and children with gastroschisis are expected to have some problems since some of their organs are on the outside of the body. Direct contact with the amniotic fluid can irritate the exposed intestines and cause problems with movement of digested food and the absorption of nutrients.   

Since the intestines are not in their normal location, they can make it difficult for the lungs to expand into their normal location. The misplaced organs can make it difficult for the baby’s lungs to expand, which can cause breathing problems. Sometimes death of the bowel is a complication.

Babies with gastroschisis are typically undergo surgery shortly after birth to correct these problems. Learn more on the CDC's (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Facts about Gastroschisis page.

Gastroschisis occurs during pregnancy when the muscles of the wall of the baby’s stomach do not form correctly. Some scientists think that genetics or an environmental exposure during pregnancy can cause gastroschisis, but the exact cause is still unknown. CDC is working with researchers to study risk factors that can increase the chance of having a baby with gastroschisis. Learn more about causes and risk factors on the CDC's Facts about Gastroschisis page.

Currently, there is no known way to prevent gastroschisis, but mothers can take steps before and during pregnancy to have a healthy pregnancy. These steps include taking a daily multivitamin with folic acid (400 micrograms), not smoking, and not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Last revised January 5, 2023