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Roughly 2,000 babies are born each year with gastroschisis.

The rise in the defect affected babies born to women across the spectrum of age and ethnicity. But most cases of gastroschisis occur in babies born to mothers younger than 20. The CDC said this fact was unchanged by a notable decline in live births among teen mothers.

Although researchers do not know what causes gastroschisis, they suspect that environmental factors — a mother’s diet, medicines used during pregnancy or exposures to some toxin — may influence the development of a weak abdominal wall sometime early in pregnancy. What those harmful exposures might be, and whether babies born with the defect have some genetic vulnerability, remains a mystery.

CDC epidemiologist Suzanne Gilboa said “we’re really trying to dig into the ‘why’” of gastroschisis in a number of federal-supported studies tracking pregnant women and their babies. Researchers have just a few clues to guide their hunt, Gilboa added. Mothers who consumed alcohol or used tobacco during pregnancy are at greater risk of having a baby with gastroschisis, as are women who had a sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy or who were underweight before pregnancy.

(Photo: Centers For Disease Control)

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Report: Unusual Birth Defect Has Increased Among African-American Mothers  was originally published on

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