Gastroschisis in a developing baby

This information aims to answer your questions if an ultrasound scan during pregnancy shows that your baby has gastroschisis.

Gastroschisis is when your baby has a hole in their tummy wall (abdominal wall). This allows the intestines to come out through the hole to the outside of the baby's body. 

Gastroschisis happens because the muscles of your baby's tummy do not form properly. The small hold is usually to the right side of the belly button.

While in the womb, the intestines are covered by the amniotic fluid. In most cases this is not a problem, but occasionally this can damage the gut.

We usually diagnose gastroschisis during a routine ultrasound scan at or after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The information explains:

If you have any more questions, please speak to the doctor, midwife or sonographer (health professional who specialises in ultrasound scans) caring for you.

What causes gastroschisis

Gastroschisis is a rare condition. It affects about 1 in 5,000 babies and happens early in pregnancy.

It is not clear what causes gastroschisis. The condition appears to be more common in younger mothers under the age of 20.

Gastroschisis is not inherited and does not usually run in families.

How gastroschisis can affect your baby and pregnancy

Most babies (more than 95 in 100) with gastroschisis recover fully and do not have any complications. However, some babies with gastroschisis might:

  • be born earlier than their due date
  • have a smaller than average weight
  • have problems with their bowels after they are born

For this reason, we offer you extra scans in our fetal medicine unit to monitor your baby's growth during pregnancy.

Your specialist pregnancy (obstetric) team recommends the best time and method for you to give birth. This depends on your individual needs.

We recommend giving birth by 38 weeks of pregnancy if your baby has gastroschisis. If you do not give birth naturally by then, we might offer to induce your labour (start it artificially).

You might have:

  • a vaginal birth (when your baby is born through the vagina)
  • a caesarean section (when we deliver your baby through a cut made in your tummy and womb)

How you give birth depends on your personal situation, and what seems best for you and your baby.

After your baby is born

In babies with gastroschisis, a protective sac does not cover the intestines or bowels. They are exposed to amniotic fluid (a clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds an unborn baby) during pregnancy. As a result, the bowel can become:

  • irritated and swollen
  • twisted
  • shortened

When your baby is born, we transfer them to our neonatal (newborn) unit for follow-up care. Soon after the birth, we need to do surgery to:

  • put the bowel back inside the baby's tummy
  • repair the gap (close the opening) on the tummy wall

A specialist children's doctor and team (the paediatric team) do the surgery. You meet a member of this team when you are pregnant. Depending on the size of the gap, your baby may need 1 or more procedures to repair it in stages.

Most babies make a full recovery. However, some babies may have difficulties that could include:

  • problems with feeding
  • infection

These issues are not usually serious and often resolve with time.

Your baby is likely to stay in hospital for at least 6 weeks. They can then recover fully and get into a feeding routine before going home. Sometimes, your baby needs to stay in hospital for longer than this.

You are introduced to the neonatal and paediatric teams during your pregnancy. We talk to you in more detail about how we will care for your baby after the birth.

How the condition can affect future pregnancies

Gastroschisis is a condition that happens by chance and is not inherited. For these reasons, the chance of it happening again in a future pregnancy is very small.

Useful information and support

The organisations listed in this section can give you more information about gastroschisis and support with the condition.

Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC)

A national charity that gives parents impartial information and support throughout antenatal testing.

Phone: 020 7713 7486, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm
Email: [email protected] (you can email to arrange an evening call on Tuesday and Thursday, 8 to 10pm)
Website: www.arc-uk.org

Contact a Family (Contact)

A charity that gives support, advice and information to families with disabled children, regardless of the child's medical condition or situation.

Phone: 0808 808 3555 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm)
Email: [email protected]
Website: contact.org.uk


A website run by the Dipex Charity. Thousands of people have shared real experiences on film about living with different health conditions.

Website: healthtalk.org

Resource number: 4484/VER2
Last reviewed: March 2024
Next review due: March 2027

A list of sources is available on request.

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the fetal medicine midwives.

Phone: 020 7188 2321, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email: [email protected]

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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