Spina bifida is a birth defect which occurs when a baby's spine does not develop properly, leaving a gap in the spine. As a result the spinal cord and the nerves that branch out of it may be damaged. It is a lifelong condition.
Types of spina bifida
There are several different types of spina bifida. Myelomeningocele (my-uh-low-meh-NIN-guh-seel) is one of the most serious types. It can be associated with significant damage to the spinal cord and can leave the nervous system vulnerable to life-threatening infections.
Low levels of folic acid in the diet during early pregnancy can increase a woman's risk of her baby being born with spina bifida. There is also some evidence of a link with having a high fever during pregnancy.
Expectant parents may be able to find out if their baby has spina bifida by taking prenatal tests.
Babies with a myelomeningocele need surgery 1 to 2 days after birth to protect the exposed area and central nervous system and to prevent them from becoming infected.
Children with spina bifida may need long-term care to help treat any underlying conditions that result from their spina bifida.
Children with paralysis may eventually need walking aids like leg braces, walkers, or a wheelchair.