Posted by Claudia Grazioso on May 4, 2011
Words like “birth defect” can stop a parent’s heart. But if your baby is born with anal atresia, once you come back to life and start breathing again, remember that this particular birth defect is very survivable. And in the scary and unnerving world of birth defects, anal atresia is also very treatable. In fact, the prognosis is generally good.
Anal atresia is a congenital birth defect in which the anal opening is either missing or blocked. This can take several forms. The rectum may end in a pouch that does not connect to the colon. Sometimes the anal opening is in the urethra, the bladder, the scrotum or the vagina. Or it can be a case of stenosis, a form of anal atresia in which the anal opening is significantly narrowed or is completely absent.
Symptoms of anal atresia include an anal opening that seems to abnormally close to the vagina, no bowel movements for the first 24 to 48 hours after birth, a belly that appears to be swollen or bloated, or bowels passing through the vagina, scrotum or urethra. Alert your doctor or healthcare provider to any of these issues immediately so you can move on to the solution: Surgery. It is often required to either construct or reconstruct an anal opening, and repair any damage to any organs the rectum may have been connected to. Surgery on infants is a scary proposition for parents, but take heart in that this surgery is usually very successful. After the operation, while recovering your baby will probably need to wear a temporary colostomy bag.
Anal atresia is considered a congenital birth defect and much of the medical community believes that there is no definitive cause and hence no way to prevent it. But some people do feel that there is a link between this birth defect and the mother’s use of anti-depressants during pregnancy, since the use of some Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) have been linked to other birth defects.
If you are pregnant and taking an SSRI or an SNRI drug and are concerned about this, talk to your doctor.
The prognosis is good, though sometimes there are complications afterwards like constipation, incontinence, or intestinal blockages that may require further medical treatment and monitoring. Depending on the exact nature of the anal atresia, some children may continue to have difficulties with bowel control. Additionally, sometimes anal atresia is present with other birth defects. Have your baby checked thoroughly by your doctor just to be sure.