5 Things About Spina Bifida You May Not Have Known
By Laura Sussely-Pope, Pregnancy.org
No one wants to even think about having a baby with anything remotely challenging, painful or disabling.
But while we hear a lot before and during pregnancy about possible conditions such as Down syndrome, heart defects, and autism, we don’t hear very much about neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
At least, that was the case with me. I did hear about Down syndrome, which turned out to be a good thing, since my little one has it. (He is the twinkle in my eye but that is a subject for another article – or book!)
I think most of us know that we should take folic acid both before and during pregnancy to prevent spina bifida, but how many of us know why, how much and frankly, just exactly what spina bifida is?
Here are 5 facts about spina bifida that you may not have known:
1. Spina bifida is the most common form of a type of birth deformity called a neural tube defect. When these birth defects occur, the structure inside the embryo that develops into the brain and spinal cord, the neural tube, does not develop normally. It causes the backbone to develop irregularly and may affect the spinal cord. This birth defect is one of the most common, affecting approximately 1,300 babies in the Unites States every year. While not as high a risk as chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome, it is a risk which thankfully, can be lowered.
2. It's not clear what causes spina bifida, but scientists believe a combination of genes, nutrition and environmental factors come into play. However, there is one clear link and that is folic acid intake, a form of vitamin B. It is believed this may prevent certain birth defects, including spina bifida. The prenatal vitamins our doctor prescribes should contain folic acid, but be sure to talk to your doctor about this.
3. There are various forms of spina bifida, from very mild to severe, causing no disability to paralysis.
4. There are various prenatal tests which can alert your doctor to a neural tube defect; however, it likely will not alert him or her to the severity of the birth defect.
5. We are already full of worries during pregnancy, from will I be a good mom to will my child be born with 10 fingers and 10 toes, but it bears remembering that the vast majority of babies are born absolutely healthy. And yes, you’ll be a good mom – bad moms don’t tend to worry.