Genital and Urinary Tract Defects

Posted On: November 19, 2019 By Andrei Rebarber, MD

Although not as common as other birth defects, defects of the genitals and urinary system can be present at birth and require some interventions either prenatally or postnatally. About 1 in 500 babies are born with genital and urinary tract defects that can affect the way the body looks and works. Fortunately, many of these defects can be detected during a targeted high level ultrasound so you can make sure your baby has the care it needs even before birth. Here’s what to know about these kinds of defects, what causes them, and what you can expect if your child may have one.

What are genital and urinary tract defects?

Genital and urinary tract defects can affect many different areas of the pelvic region like the external genitals, internal reproductive organs, kidneys, bladder, and various tubes that connect these important organs. Most often with these defects, the body doesn’t develop as it should, and may result in blockages, displacements, or anatomical anomalies that affect your child’s ability to successfully expel urine or reproduce later in life.

What causes genital and urinary tract defects?

Since there are so many different defects that can affect the genitals and urinary system, it can be difficult to pin down specific causes. Various genetic conditions or syndromes may be associated with some conditions and, depending on the condition identified, invasive prenatal testing with amniocentesis or chorionic villous sampling may help clarify the diagnosis. There are some known risk factors, including:

  • Being 35 or older
  • Obseity (BMI of 30 or greater)
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Smoking or drug use
  • Taking certain medications
  • Family history of genital and urinary tract defects

How do I know if my baby has a genital and urinary tract abnormality?

In some cases, defects of the genitals can be observed with a targeted, high-level ultrasound during pregnancy usually performed at 16-22 weeks gestation. These defects might include genitals that are ambiguous or have developed improperly, as well as various urologic conditions such as fetal hydronephrosis or renal agenesis. If any abnormalities are present in the urinary tract or genitals, your obstetrician can refer you to various specialists, including a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist or genetic counselor. Most conditions are not treated during pregnancy but proper referrals to pediatric urologists can be performed to better understand the care that should take place after delivery. Some defects can be treated with surgery while others may require ongoing care as your child grows up.

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It’s important to partner with a maternal fetal medicine specialist who can ensure you understand your options and ways to prevent different birth defects. To meet with our award-winning team, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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