Fetal Conditions We Treat

The Fetal and Pregnancy Health Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford evaluates, manages, and treats a wide variety of fetal and placental conditions. Our team uses the most advanced therapies and interventions for mothers and fetuses, and is recognized for our ability to treat complex conditions.

We are able to care for both mothers and babies with complicated disorders due to our close integration with the Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services and the adult specialty services at Stanford Hospital.

Our program has expertise in treating many fetal and placental conditions, including the following:

Airway malformations include anomalies of the mandible (lower jaw), palate, oral cavity, or neck, or masses inside or outside the airway that compress on or obstruct the airway.

Learn more about airway malformations or lesions

In most twins, each fetus has its own placenta (dichorionic placentation). Monochorionic twins, twins sharing a single placenta, develop when a single embryo splits early in gestation.

Learn more about complex monochorionic twins

Abdominal wall defects, including gastroschisis and omphalocele, occur during fetal development; in these, the skin and other protective tissue does not completely cover the abdomen. In gastroschisis, abdominal organs, including the intestines, are uncovered and protruding outside the baby’s body. In omphalocele, there is usually a thin sac covering the abdominal organs. Omphalocele may be accompanied by differences in other organ systems and genetic conditions, whereas gastroschisis is usually an isolated finding.

Learn more about fetal abdominal wall defects

Fetal anemia is a low red blood cell count in the fetus. Fetal anemia most commonly results from an incompatibility between the mother’s blood and fetal blood (also known as isoimmunization), but it can also be due to infections and certain genetic conditions. Fetal anemia can lead to cardiac failure and fetal hydrops.

Learn more about fetal anemia

Abnormalities or differences in brain and central nervous system development can occur during fetal development. These may include ventriculomegaly (enlarged brain ventricles), absent corpus callosum (the nerve fibers that join the two hemispheres of the brain), cerebellar abnormalities (the area of the brain that controls balance), and other brain malformations.

Learn more about fetal brain abnormalities

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a very serious condition that occurs when the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest, doesn’t develop as it should.

Learn more about fetal congenital diaphragmatic hernia

How a heart condition affects a baby varies widely and depends on how severe the problem is, when it is diagnosed, and how it is treated. The likelihood of a child having a developmental disability or delay when he or she is older increases with how complex the heart defect is.

Learn more about fetal heart conditions

Fetal hydrothorax occurs when fluid builds up within the fetal chest. The fluid can compress the developing lungs and shift the heart from its usual position (mediastinal shift). Compression of the lungs can interfere with their normal development.

Learn more about fetal hydrothorax

These are masses that grow inside or next to an unborn baby’s lung. They are commonly called bronchopulmonary malformations. Large and complex fetal lung masses can be associated with compression of the developing lung; development of fetal hydrops; polyhydramnios; preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), a rupture of the amniotic sac before labor begins; and preterm birth.

Learn more about fetal lung masses

Fetal renal failure is when your baby’s kidneys do not form correctly in the womb. The fetal renal conditions we treat include a group of rare and complex kidney birth malformations called congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT). This includes kidneys that never develop (renal agenesis), kidneys that may not function as expected because they did not form normally (renal dysplasia), and lower urinary tract obstruction (LUTO)—a blockage in a fetus’s urinary tract.  

Learn more about fetal renal failure

Spina bifida is a condition that happens when the fetus’s bony spine, which protects the spinal cord and nerves, doesn’t develop normally.

Learn more about fetal spina bifida

Genetic and metabolic conditions can occur when a gene or group of genes is changed from what is expected; this can create differences in how the body develops or how the body processes energy. A metabolic disorder affects the way the body breaks down food, absorbs nutrients, or handles enzymes.

Learn more about genetic and metabolic conditions

Sometimes a baby’s kidneys do not form correctly in the womb. Congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT) comprises a group of rare and complex kidney birth malformations, including kidneys that never develop (renal agenesis), kidneys that do not function because they did not form correctly (renal dysplasia), and lower urinary tract obstruction (LUTO)—a blockage in a fetus’s urinary tract. It also includes fetuses with rare problems, such as inherited cystic kidney disease that can lead to kidney failure.

Learn more about fetal lower urinary tract obstruction (LUTO)

Neonatal hemochromatosis (NH) is an extremely rare condition that can result in a serious and sometimes fatal injury to the liver of a developing fetus. An occurrence of NH should be considered in women with a history of having a newborn with severe liver disease or women who have experienced a neonatal or fetal loss due to severe liver disease. This is particularly true if a diagnosis of gestational alloimmune liver disease (GALD) was made. Early prenatal treatment in subsequent pregnancies can prevent liver injury, resulting in a healthy baby.

Learn more about neonatal hemochromatosis

Some kinds of placental disorders (placenta previa, accreta, increta, and percreta) happen when a woman’s placenta grows across the cervix or is attached too deeply to the uterine wall. Placenta accreta is the mildest of the three.

Learn more about placental attachment disorders