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What is fetal surgery? Pregnant Kourtney Kardashian's medical emergency, what we know

Kourtney praised her doctors for keeping her baby boy 'safe' after surgery, weeks before she is due to give birth

Kourtney Kardashian on the red carpet
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca LewisReporterLos Angeles
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Kourtney Kardashian revealed on Tuesday September 5 that she had undergone emergency fetal surgery, leaving many fans praying for the health of the reality star and her baby.

In an emotional statement posted on Instagram, the soon-to-be mom-of-four thanked "the incredible doctors for saving our baby's life," and revealed that her baby boy, whom she is expecting with husband Travis Barker, was "safe". The couple, understandably, did not disclose further details about the procedure or what prompted it. 

Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian arrive at The 2022 Met Gala © getty
Travis and Kourtney are expecting their first baby together

But what is fetal surgery?

Fetal surgery is relatively new, and is the surgical treatment of a fetus as it remains in the mother's womb. Surgical intervention in this way is often carried out in order to correct any health problems that may be too advanced to repair after birth. 

It becomes an option when your doctor believes that the fetus may not live long enough to make it to delivery or long after birth. 

How often is fetal surgery performed? 

Only 20 hospitals in America offer this type of surgery, and according to Boston's Children's Hospital there are two main types of surgery usually offered.

Open fetal surgery, also known as a hysterotomy, will see the fetus partially removed so that the area that needs surgery is exposed to the surgeons. After the corrective surgery is performed, the fetus is returned and the uterus is closed. This method, known as an EXIT (ex utero intrapartum treatment), is often the best option when the fetus is suffering from a congenital defect that blocks the airways. 

It allows time for several different procedures to be undertaken so the baby can breathe on its own when the cord is cut. 

Kourtney Kardashian reveals she's pregnant with Travis Barker's baby

Fetoscopic surgery is the second type of surgery and minimally invasive Surgeons will use fiber-optic telescopes and specially designed instruments to enter the uterus to correct congenital malformations without major incisions or removing the fetus from the womb. 

This alternative is often considered less traumatic for the baby and mother, and reduces the chances of preterm labor. 

Kourtney Kardashian wearing a silver outfit © Instagram / @kourtneykardash
The eldest Kardashian sister will be mom to four

What health concerns prompt doctors to perform fetal surgery?

Several examples of health concerns that may cause a doctor to suggest a pregnant woman undergo fetal surgery include twin-to-twin perfusion syndrome, which is a pregnancy condition that sees one twin deprived of the nutrients it needs as the other twin receives an excess of nutrients, and procedures for certain rare conditions such as a congenital diaphragmatic hernia – in which the liver is located in the chest and lung development is severely restricted – or fetal tumors. 

Prenatal repair of myelomeningocele, or Spina Bifida, can also take place via fetal surgery. 

Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker are seen in attendance during the UFC 264 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada© Getty Images
Kourtney and Travis had been friends for years before it turned into romance

When is Kourtney Kardashian due? 

Kourtney 44, first announced her pregnancy in June 2023 at a Blink-182 concert, when she held up a sign that read: "Travis I'm pregnant," a nod to the band's 'All the Small Things' music video. 

It is thought Kourtney's due date is this October. 

Kourtney gave her daughter Penelope a birthday party to remember
Kourtney is mom to one daughter, and soon will be mom to three sons

What has Kourtney Kardashian said about her attempts to conceive her fourth child? 

The businesswoman had previously opened up on her show The Kardashians about her journey trying to conceive and attempting IVF, and was brutally honest about the impact it had on her health. 

"Travis and I want to have a baby, and so my doctor took us down this road of doing IVF. It hasn't been the most amazing experience," she told her sisters during one episode. "Eight months of IVF treatment has taken a toll on my body, mentally and physically, and it has taken a lot for me to get to a place of feeling comfortable and happy with the changes." 

 Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian red carpet © Getty
Travis and Kourtney wed in 2022

What other children do Kourtney and Travis have? 

Kourtney is already mom to three children, Mason, 13, Penelope, ten, and eight-year-old Reign, who she shares with ex Scott Disick. Travis is also father to Landon, 19, and Alabama, 17, whom he shares with ex-wife Shanna Moakler.

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