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Intestinal Atresia

Intestinal atresia belongs to the intestinal category of birth defects.

What it is

Babies born with intestinal atresia have an improperly developed intestine. Where a healthy baby’s intestine is open and tube-like, the intestine of a baby affected with intestinal atresia is blocked off or missing sections of the organ. As a result of the intestinal blockage, food and feces are unable to pass through the baby’s body.

Intestinal atresia is estimated to occur in one out of every 1,500 live births. Frequently, intestinal atresia occurs alongside other conditions; 50-75% of cases experience other birth defects such as congenital heart disease, kidney problems or other gastrointestinal defects. About 30% of babies born with this condition also suffer from Down syndrome.


Intestinal atresia can be diagnosed by an ultrasound examination during pregnancy. If it is not diagnosed prior to birth, the condition is usually apparent within a few days of birth. Symptoms include:

  • Failure to pass stool
  • Inability to tolerate feedings
  • Vomiting- vomit may appear to be yellow or greenish
  • Distended abdomen from excess gas


Clomid: Increased risk of delivering a baby with intestinal atresia has been associated with maternal use of the fertility drug, Clomid. According to a major study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mothers who took Clomid during the two months prior to conception or the first month of pregnancy were 40% more likely to deliver a baby with intestinal atresia.


Surgery is always required to treat intestinal atresia. Surgery typically involves removal of the affected part of the intestine, followed by a reconnection of the remaining part of the organ. Extent of surgery and recovery time are dependent on the severity of the intestinal deformity. Some cases of intestinal atresia can be corrected with minimally invasive surgeries, while other cases – such as those affecting multiple parts of the intestinal tract – may require major surgery and a long recovery period in the hospital. In the most serious cases in which babies develop short bowel syndrome, babies may need to be fed through an IV for years. However, typically recovery time is much shorter; many babies are able to leave the hospital within a week of surgery.


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