Fetal anomalies refer to unexpected or unusual conditions during a baby’s development during pregnancy. When an infant develops with an anamoly, serious health complications can follow. Maternal fetal medicine specialist Dr. Suwan Mehra, MD, treats fetal anomalies at his self-named practice serving the Chicago and Park Ridge, Illinois, areas. If you’d like more information, call today to book a visit or try the easy online scheduling tool.
Fetal Anomalies, also known as congenital anomalies, refer to unusual and unexpected conditions in a baby's development during gestation (pregnancy).
The most common fetal anomalies include heart irregularities, neural tube irregularities, and Down syndrome. Although unusual or unexpected conditions may result from one or more genetic, infectious, nutritional, or environmental factors, it can be challenging to identify their exact causes.
Two general classifications of fetal anomalies include:
Fetal anomalies affect the developing baby’s body parts, such as kidneys, heart, lungs, limbs, or facial features. Structural anomalies include heart defects, cleft lip, and spina bifida.
Some fetal anomalies change how a body part or system works, such as the nervous system, sensory perception, and brain. Examples of functional anomalies include: blindness, developmental disabilities, seizures, muscular dystrophy, and Down syndrome.
Some fetal anomalies can affect both the baby’s function and structure.
Dr. Mehra can reliably detect significant abnormalities of the fetal head, abdominal wall, urinary tract, umbilical cord, and placenta at 10-11 weeks of gestation. Detection of other fetal anomalies such as heart defects, diaphragmatic hernia, or spina bifida is limited before 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Spina bifida occurs when the spine fails to close during fetal development. The most common form is called Myelomeningocele or MMC.
Different chemical markers are evaluated as part of routine blood draws during gestation. If a test returns positive, the baby has a higher chance of having MMC. Following test results, Dr. Mehra may order an ultrasound or additional testing.
Fetal ultrasound is the most accurate method to diagnose spina bifida before delivery. Ultrasound can be performed during the first trimester (11-14 weeks) and the second trimester (18-22 weeks). Dr. Mehra can accurately diagnose fetal anomalies during the second trimester ultrasound scan.
Some fetal anomalies, like heart irregularities, may resolve before birth. Others may need specialized care during or soon after delivery. For these anomalies, treatment is rarely necessary while the baby is still in the womb.
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