Spinal Bifida is a neural tube defect and means ‘split or divided ‘ spine. Spina Bifida occurs when the spinal cord fails to complete its development in the early weeks of pregnancy.
Folate intake can reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Spina Bifida can affect people in a variety of ways including walking difficulties (reduced sensation in the legs to paralysis), bowel and bladder problems and hydrocephalus, which can affect memory and learning difficulties.
Symptoms can sometimes be seen on the skin above the spinal defect. They include an abnormal tuft of hair, a birthmark or protruding spinal cord tissue.
Spina bifida can cause problems such as:
- leg weakness
- loss of feeling in parts of the skin
- bladder or bowel incontinence
- learning difficulties
There is no single identifiable cause for spina bifida. The evidence suggests that genetic and environmental factors, such as diet, can contribute to the development of spina bifida.
You are more likely than others to have a child with spina bifida if you:
- have a low folate diet
- have previously had a baby with spina bifida
- have been taking certain anti-seizure medications
- have type 1 diabetes
- are considered obese
You are also more likely than others to have a child with the condition if the baby’s father has a family history of spina bifida.
How is spina bifida diagnosed?
If tests confirm that your baby has spina bifida what this means will be fully discussed with you along with your options. Your doctor or midwife will be able to refer you to specialist counselling services and provide you with important information and advice.
How is spina bifida treated?
There is no cure for spina bifida. Treatment will depend on how severe the spina bifida is, and whether surgery is an option to minimise the risk of infection and future disability.
If a child’s severe spina bifida is detected early enough in pregnancy, foetal surgery might be possible. It must be done before 26 weeks of pregnancy. Surgeons can open the uterus to repair the baby’s spinal cord, which can limit disability after birth.
If surgery is left till the baby is born the exposed fluid sac and spinal cord if present must be repaired in the first 48-72 hours after the baby is born to reduce the risk of infection and potential further spinal cord damage.
If the baby has hydrocephalus, surgery to insert a narrow tube known as a ‘shunt’ to relieve fluid pressure on the brain may also be performed.
How is spina bifida managed?
Someone with spina bifida may be able to manage the condition in part by:
- using mobility aids such as limb splints or braces, crutches or a wheelchair to help walking or moving
- using a catheter to help empty the bladder and prevent infection
- managing learning difficulties in problem solving and handling new tasks
Some or all of these health professionals may also be able to provide support:
- continence nurse
- occupational therapist
- orthopaedic surgeon
- social worker
At Elm Rd. we are always available to address any concerns you may have or answer any questions you may have. Book instantly online or give us a call on 02 9913 3619.