U.S. Rep. says her unborn baby has serious medical condition

U.S. Rep. says her unborn baby has serious medical condition »Play Video
FILE - U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Southwest Washington.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Southwest Washington's U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler posted on Facebook on Monday that doctor's had diagnosed her unborn baby with Potter’s Syndrome.

The condition inhibits normal lung development because of underdeveloped kidneys.

It's a very personal struggle for someone who is living it out on the public stage. But her openness is raising awareness of this rare condition.

The director of maternal fetal medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, Leonardo Pereira, says he sees a couple cases a year.

Unfortunately when Potter’s Syndrome is diagnosed, the babies do not usually survive after they're born.

Herrera Beutler was elected to Congress at age 31. She's now 34 and is one of the youngest women currently serving in Congress.

On May 1 she shared the news on Facebook that she and her husband, Dan, were expecting a baby. But now a month later she wrote another personal note, telling of her unborn baby's diagnosis and explaining Potter's Syndrome.

"We have had a second opinion and the medical diagnosis was consistent with the initial news: there is no medical solution available to us. We are praying for a miracle," she wrote.

Pereira says the diagnosis is often made around 20 weeks in the second trimester.

"It's very, very hard for patients, especially when they come for their anatomy ultrasound, usually excited about the idea about finding out the gender of their baby, and then to be surprised by a lethal condition is very tough for families," he said.

And then there's typically a decision to make – whether to continue the pregnancy even if doctors predict the baby won't live after birth.

"We always offer the mom the option of termination of the pregnancy, but we'll support typically whatever the parent wants to do in that situation," Pereira said.

Herrera Beutler wrote on her Facebook page that she "will be able to continue to balance the responsibilities of an expectant mother with serving as your representative in Congress."

She goes on to ask for prayers and privacy.

There isn't a known way to prevent Potter's Syndrome. It's caused by a developmental birth defect. Pereira says the one related thing an expecting mom can be aware of is her blood pressure. That can sometimes affect the baby's kidney development. So it's something to talk to your doctor about.

If babies with Potter's Syndrome do pull through and survive after delivery, they may face problems breathing, with kidney function, and using their arms and legs.