Echogenic bowel is the term used when the bowel of a baby in utero appears brighter than usual. An ultrasound reveals this condition, usually during the second trimester, and the fetus’ bowel typically looks bright and white in color. In most situations, the finding does not result in any serious condition; but in some cases, it’s a sign of an underlying health issue.
Causes of Echogenic Bowel
Echogenic bowel may be a result of uterine bleeding within the womb. This bleeding may be what is discoloring the fetus’ bowel. The baby may have ingested the blood through the umbilicus, thus creating a slight discoloration as the blood moves through its digestive system. If uterine bleeding is the cause, an ultrasound can help determine its origin. In most situations, the problem resolves itself as the injury is healed and with no harm done to the baby.
Bowel problems in the fetus, however, could be related to infections that could endanger the baby’s health. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and toxoplasmosis are infections that can cross the placenta and make the baby sick. These types of infection may cause bright white spots on the baby’s bowel during an ultrasound.
If echogenic indications are found in a fetal ultrasound, the mother should be checked for infections since many of them do not present symptoms. The mother may be feeling fine, but still have an infection. In most of these cases, the risk to the baby is low but regular checkups can ensure no complications arise and the baby is not experiencing stress.
Hereditary diseases such as Down Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis may also indicate echogenic bowel. Testing for cystic fibrosis or other hereditary diseases is widely available and may be done to rule out these kinds of problems.
Abnormalities of the Placenta
Echogenic bowel, also called hyper-echoic bowel, can also be linked to placenta abnormalities and function problems. This is significant because the placenta is the baby’s protective barrier and link to life. The placenta provides the baby with its blood and oxygen supply. The child also receives its nourishment from the placenta, so if the placenta’s function is compromised, it could hinder normal growth and development. Other pregnancy complications can threaten the health or, in some cases, even the life of the mother.
At times, the underlying issue causing the echogenic bowel is not readily apparent. Nevertheless, it’s important to receive regular prenatal checkups to ensure the anomaly does not cause problems for the mother or the child.