Posted by Claudia Grazioso on February 8, 2012
Anal atresia is a rare birth defect that happens to about one baby out of every five thousand. Though any birth defect is troubling to new parents, thankfully this is one that can be treated very effectively and the prognosis for the vast majority of children is good. But there are follow-up issues that parents should be sure to stay on top of if their infant is diagnosed with and treated for anal atresia.
As with birth defects like infant omphalocele, clubfoot, craniosynostosis, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and cleft palate, some studies have shown a possible link between anal atresia and exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in utero. If you took or are taking any antidepressant during pregnancy, your baby might be at increased risk for anal atresia. Anal atresia means that your baby’s anus is either missing or has formed in the wrong place. It can usually be diagnosed by a physical exam but frequently imaging technology is used so doctors can get a better understanding of the problem. Sometimes this birth defect is not immediately apparent, but if you notice that your infant does not pass their bowels within 48 hours of delivery, that their abdomen seems swollen or that bowel movements seem to come out of their vagina, scrotum or urethra, inform your doctor at once.
Surgery is required to repair this birth defect, and parents must adhere to proper follow-up care procedures to insure that no scar tissue forms. Depending on where the defect is located, some children will recover and experience no problems, while others might have problems with bowel control. Constipation is also sometimes an ongoing problem for children born with anal atresia. Additionally, if your baby is diagnosed or has been diagnosed with anal atresia, there are several other birth defects you should have them checked for. Babies born with anal atresia should also be checked for problems with their urinary tracts, spines and genitals. Additionally, some babies with anal atresia have problems with their esophagus, so be sure to ask your doctor to do a thorough exam, especially of those areas.
Everyone hopes for a problem-free birth, but sadly not everyone gets one. If your baby is born with anal atresia, take heart in knowing that, very happily, it’s very treatable.