- Membranes that surround the spinal cord
- Nerve roots that connect nerves to the spinal cord
- The spinal cord
- Back bones—may be deformed
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- Occulta—small defect in one or more backbones, least severe form, usually no complications
- Meningocele—membranes poke through an open part of the spine and can form a cyst
- Myelomeningocele—most severe form of spina bifida, membranes poke through and contain nerve roots or spinal cord and can lead to:
- Low maternal blood level of folic acid at the time of conception
- Family history of spina bifida
- A mother who had a previous pregnancy with a neural tube defect
- Mother's race: Hispanic or Caucasian of European origin
- Certain medications given during pregnancy
- Sac filled with fluid leading out from the baby's spine
- Spinal cord and tissue may also protrude through the back
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Frequent urinary tract and other infections
- Learning disabilities
- Build up of fluid in the brain
- Curvature of the spine
Inability to walk:
- Muscle weakness and paralysis of the lower extremities
- Hip dislocation
- Foot and ankle deformities
- Many children with myelomeningocele are wheelchair bound
- Amniocentesis—a sample of the fluid surrounding the baby is taken to measure for factors indicating problems of the spine
- Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to look at the fetal spine
After Birth Testing
If you plan to have a baby, take
supplements before the baby is conceived. They should also be continued throughout the pregnancy. A vitamin supplement containing folate may be the most reliable method of getting folate, but you can get it from food as well.
Foods with significant quantities of folate
- Leafy green vegetables
- Orange juice
- White flour products and cereals fortified with folate
- Plan your pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the risk factors listed above. Ask your doctor if any medications that you are taking increase the risk of having a baby with spina bifida.
March of Dimes http://www.marchofdimes.org
Spina Bifida Association of America http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org
Sick Kids—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.sickkids.ca
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada http://www.sbhac.ca
Aherens K, Yazdy MM, Mitchell AA, Werler MM. Folic acid intake and spina bifida in the era of dietary folic acid fortification. Epidemiology. 2011;22(5):731-737.
Spina bifida. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/developmental-disabilities/Pages/Spina-Bifida.aspx. Updated May 28, 2014. Accessed June 3, 2014.
Spina bifida. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 21, 2013. Accessed June 3, 2014.
12/3/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Shin M, Besser LM, Siffel C, et al. Prevalence of spina bifida among children and adolescents in 10 regions in the United States. Pediatrics. 2010;126(2):274-279.
- Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 06/2015 -
- Update Date: 06/03/2014 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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