Kidney and bladder problems

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Read about the various abnormalities of the kidneys and bladder that can arise in a developing fetus during pregnancy.

Key points

  • Some kidney and bladder problems are genetically determined while others are caused by something going wrong in the development of the urinary system.
  • These conditions are rare and may sometimes be treated with surgery.

Some babies are born with abnormalities in their kidneys or bladder, called congenital abnormalities or birth defects. They form as the result of something going wrong with the development of the baby’s urinary system during pregnancy. It is important to keep in mind that these abnormalities are rare, and may sometimes be treated with surgery.

Urinary system abnormalities

Congenital polycystic kidney

This is a genetically determined condition where cysts form in the kidney, which causes problems with the kidney’s ability to get rid of waste. Congenital polycystic kidney is a progressive, life-threatening condition. Treatment of this condition includes observation together with conservative management of renal failure, renal replacement therapy with dialysis, and possibly kidney transplantation later in life.

Duplication of the ureter

The ureters are tubes that bring urine from the kidney to the bladder. Duplication of the ureter is a condition where there is an extra ureter. Usually the extra ureter enters the bladder like the other ureters but, rarely, it might enter into the vagina or urethra instead. In some cases, the extra urine needs to be drained. Sometimes surgery is required to remove the extra ureter.

Pelvic kidney

Usually in pregnancy, the kidneys start to form in the pelvis and then move up to the abdomen. Sometimes one of the kidneys will fail to move up, and it is referred to as a pelvic kidney. Since the kidney is not in its normal position, it receives less blood than a normal kidney. Many people with this condition have no symptoms, although some may feel pain.

Horseshoe kidney

This is when two kidneys are pushed so close together that they fuse together at the bottom. This is a relatively common abnormality. Again, many people with this condition have no symptoms.

Urachal fistula

The urachus is a structure that connects the bladder to the umbilical cord in the baby during pregnancy. Usually the urachus disappears before birth. In the case of an urachal fistula, however, the urachus does not disappear, and urine drains from the navel, where the umbilical cord used to be, after the baby is born. The condition can be corrected with surgery.

Urachal cyst

If the urachus does not disappear, cysts may form in the navel area, leading to infection.

Last updated: September 10th 2009