Spina bifida is a birth defect that can happen when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. The defect is categorized under neural tube defects – a part of the body that forms in early stages in pregnancy.
The three most common types of spina bifida are myelomeningocele, meningocele and spina bifida occulta.
Myelomeningocele is the most serious form of spina bifida. It happens when a sac of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back. When that happens, par of the spinal cord and nerves in the sac are damaged. When myelomeningocele occurs, it affects how people go to the bathroom, and people often lose feeling in their legs, or feet.
Meningocecle occurs when a sac of fluid comes through the opening in a baby’s back. In this particular sac, the spinal cord isn’t involved, and it causes little, to no nerve damage, but it comes with minor disabilities.
Spina bifida occulta is considered to be the most mild form of spina bifida. This involves a small gap in the spine, but the spinal cord and nerves are typically normal. This form of spina bifida is usually not discovered until late childhood, or adulthood, and it typically does not cause any disabilities.
The defect can cause a number of issues including latex allergies, skin problems, sleep-disordered breathing, tethered spinal cord, infection in the tissues surrounding the brain, shut malfunction, accumulation of fluid in the brain, bowel and bladder problems, orthopedic complications and walking and mobility problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,645 babies are born with spina bifida each year. The birth defect is something that Hispanic women should be wary of, because Hispanic women have the highest rate of having a child affected by spina bifida.
Data from 12 state-based birth defects tracking programs from 1997 to 2007 found that 3.80 per 10,000 live births suffer from spina bifida in Hispanic women.
Doctors say that folic acid is a way of preventing spina bifida in babies. It is recommended that pregnant women get enough folic acid in their systems by the early weeks of pregnancy. Foods like enriched bread, pasta, rice and some breakfast cereals have folic acid in them.
It is also recommended that pregnant women talk to their doctor or pharmacist.
Since some people aren’t affected by the same type of spina bifida, treatments will vary depending on each person. The cause for spina bifida is unknown, but genetics and environment are suspected factors.