What is Spina Bifida (Spinal Defects)?
Spina bifida (Spinal Defects) occurs at the end of the first month of pregnancy when the two sides of the embryo’s spine fail to join together, leaving an open area. In some cases, the spinal cord or other membranes may push through this opening in the back. The condition usually is detected before a baby is born and treated right away.
Causes of Spina Bifida
The causes are largely unknown. Some evidence suggests that genes may play a role, but in most cases there is no familial connection. A high fever during pregnancy may increase a woman’s chances of having a baby with spina bifida. Women with epilepsy who have taken the drug valproic acid to control seizures may have an increased risk of having a baby with spina bifida.
The two forms of spina bifida are spina bifida occulta and spina bifida manifesta.
Spina bifida occulta is the mildest form of spina bifida. “Occulta” means hidden, meaning that the defect is covered by skin and not open. Most children with this type of condition never have health problems and the spinal cord is often unaffected. Some can have symptoms if the hidden defect is severe enough.
Spina bifida manifesta includes two types of spina bifida:
1.Meningocele involves the meninges, the membranes responsible for covering and protecting the brain and spinal cord.
2.Myelomeningocele is the most severe form of spina bifida. It occurs when the meninges push through the hole in the back, and the spinal cord also pushes though. Most babies who are born with this type of spina bifida also have an accumulation of fluid in and around the brain
Children with spina bifida often have problems with bowel and bladder control, and some may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other learning difficulties, such as hand-eye coordination problem.
Diagnosing Spina Bifida
Expectant parents may be able to find out if a baby has spina bifida by taking certain kinds of prenatal tests. Doctors also may use ultrasound to see if a baby has spina bifida; in some cases, the spinal defect can be seen on the ultrasound study. Amniocentesis also can help determine whether a baby has spina bifida. A needle is inserted through the mother’s belly and into the uterus to collect fluid that is tested for AFP.