Baby Kidney Problems in Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Unborn Baby Kidney Problems During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

Kidneys help in regulating the level of the electrolytes in the body, aid in expelling the toxins by producing urine, maintain the blood pressure, help in the production of red blood cells, and also maintain the levels of various minerals. Kidneys start developing at a much earlier stage in your baby’s life (first month). Sometimes your unborn baby’s kidneys could have problems, which may cause other complications after birth. However, with timely medical intervention and monitoring, various associated risks which may occur at birth can be reduced. Read on to know more about foetal kidney problems and how to treat them.

What is Foetal Kidney Problem?

Sometimes your baby’s kidneys may not develop fully, which can cause hindrances in their proper functioning. You may feel guilty and think that you have done that led to a problem with your unborn baby’s kidneys. However, most kidney problems result due to genetic glitches. The silver lining is that these problems get diagnosed during your prenatal check-ups, and the necessary steps can be taken at the right time. Such issues can either be treated medically or surgically, depending on the severity of the ailment. There are some problems such as hypertension, growth issues or UTI (urinary tract infection) that a child may develop at a later stage.

What Are the Different Types of an Unborn Baby’s Kidney Problems?

Kidney problems in unborn babies can be of various types. In this section, we will help you understand the kidney ailments by their types:

1. Hydronephrosis

This condition is characterised by the swelling in the unborn baby’s kidneys. The swelling of the kidneys may cause the funnel-like part of the kidneys to dilate. The dilation may happen in one or both the kidneys. Also, the dilation may occur with or without any obstruction. Some of the common blocks are Neurogenic bladder, Ureterocele, Ureterovesical junction obstruction (UVJ), Ureteropelvic junction obstruction (UPJ), and Posterior urethral valves.

2. Polycystic Kidney Disease

Sometimes cysts may begin to appear in your baby’s kidneys. When these cysts start growing, they may cause damage to the kidney tissue. This kidney ailment usually occurs due to genetic mutation issues.

3. Foetal Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney

Sometimes a grape or a bunch of grapes like structure may begin growing inside your unborn baby’s kidneys. This kind of deformity of the kidneys occurs during the development of the foetal kidneys.

Causes of Foetus Kidney Problems

There are not many substantial studies available that explain the causes of foetal kidney problems. Also, the occurrence of kidney problems in unborn babies is a rare phenomenon. However, the following are certain assumptions regarding the causes:

  • When the blockage occurs, it makes the urine to go back to the kidneys. This causes hydronephrosis.
  • Polycystic kidney diseases may occur due to a genetic mutation.
  • When the kidneys do not form properly in an unborn baby, it leads to the foetal multicystic dysplastic kidney.

How Are Foetal Kidney Problems Detected During Pregnancy?

Here are some parameters that your doctor may use to identify if your unborn baby suffers from any kidney-related ailments:

  • Any deformities or abnormalities in your unborn baby’s kidneys can be detected during your routine prenatal ultrasound. Around 20th week of pregnancy, your doctor might be able to determine if there is any kidney-related problem in your baby.
  • By taking out a sample of your amniotic fluid (amniocentesis), your doctor might be able to diagnose polycystic kidney disease. Similarly, tissue from the placenta might be tested (chorionic villus sampling) to detect any genetic defects.
  • Foetal multicystic dysplastic can be detected during an ultrasound exam.

Effects of Kidney Problems

The effects of various kidney problems depend on its type and the severity of the condition. The foetal multicystic dysplastic kidney disorder may cause blockage in the kidneys and other complications. Hydronephrosis may lead to pain in the area between the ribs and the hips. PKD or polycystic kidney diseases may lead to fatal complications such as kidney failure. PKD may also cause cysts in other body parts, such as in the brain, pancreas, ovaries, liver, intestines, and spleen. The complications associated with PKD may be mild or severe.

Treatment for Foetal Kidney Problems

Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for PKD or polycystic kidney disease and multicystic dysplastic kidney disease. However, your doctor may recommend some of the following treatments, in case foetal kidney development problems are detected:

1. In Case Of Polycystic Kidney Disease

If PKD leads to hypertension, your doctor may prescribe medication to control the blood pressure. In case, UTI or urinary tract infection occurs, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to suppress the infection. However, if more severe complications arise, it may cause kidney failure, and your doctor may recommend dialysis or kidney transplant.

2. In Case Of Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney Disease

In this condition, your doctor will closely monitor the condition through your prenatal ultrasounds.

3. In Case Of Hydronephrosis

If this condition occurs, your doctor may try and clear the blockage or obstruction that may be making the urine to go back to the kidneys.

It is very rare for unborn babies to suffer from kidney ailments. However, if your doctor detects a problem with your baby, you should ask about the complexity of the problem. Once you know the severity of the condition, you can discuss various treatment options in detail with your doctor. With proper medical care and treatment options, you can help your baby feel better.

We hope this post has helped you understand the various foetal kidney issues that an unborn baby could have. If you have concerns, visit your doctor right away.

Also Read: Kidney Stones during Pregnancy

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