Antidepressants and Omphalocele
An omphalocele is a congenital defect that causes an infant’s abdominal organs to protrude outside of the abdominal cavity through an opening in the belly button area. The intestines and other abdominal organs are clearly visible outside of the abdominal wall and are covered only by a thin layer of protective tissue. This birth defect is a type of hernia, or rupture, which forms while a baby grows in their mother’s womb. The omphalocele hernia forms when the abdominal muscles of a fetus fail to close properly.
A congenital omphalocele is clearly visible after birth and can often be diagnosed before birth during prenatal ultrasounds. Omphaloceles can be small or large, depending on the amount of organs that protrude from the abdomen. Larger omphaloceles often involve organs other than the intestines, like the spleen or liver, extending outside of the abdominal wall.
After a diagnosis is made, the omphalocele is usually repaired with surgery that often occurs immediately after birth.
The omphalocele is first covered with a man-made material. This material, which is stitched in place, applies a gentle pressure which over time pushes the abdominal contents back into the abdomen. When the omphalocele can comfortably fit within the abdominal cavity, the man-made material is removed and the abdomen is surgically closed.
Unless a baby suffers complications like intestinal infection or death of intestinal tissue, complete recovery is expected after surgery for an omphalocele. If your baby suffers decreased bowel movements, feeding problems, fever or vomiting after the procedure, you are urged to call you health care provider immediately.
The exact cause of infant omphalocele is not known. Studies have linked the birth defect to the use of certain antidepressants during pregnancy. One such antidepressant study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that maternal antidepressant use was associated with omphalocele. Researchers found that omphalocele was present 2.8 times more often in infants whose mothers took certain antidepressants during pregnancy.
Baum Hedlund is investigating the link between certain antidepressants and the risk of infant omphalocele. If you or a loved one took antidepressants during pregnancy and had a child with omphalocele or another birth defect, please contact us.
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