What is it?
Spina bifida is a birth defect which stops the spinal cord from closing entirely, leaving a portion of it exposed and unprotected.
Spina Bifida occurs when while the baby is still in the womb and developing it's spinal cord. When the child's body formation is incomplete and the spinal column does not close entirely, it causes the defect which can lead to paralysis, challenges with mobility, trouble with mental and social development, obesity, learning disabilities and depression.
There is no exact answer as to what causes spina bifida, but it is concluded that the deficiency of folic acid in the mother carrying the child has been linked to this abnormality. Also, scientists believe that genetics and other environmental factors affect the growth and development of the child which can cause the defect.
Different Types of Spina Bifida
There are four different types of this defect :
1)Occult Spinal Dysraphism (OSD)- This defect appears as a dimple in the infants back and should be checked to ensure that the right diagnosis is given. Many serious problems may occur without treatment. It is recommended that the infant see a surgeon within a few days of birth.
2) Spina Bifida Occulta- This defect has no visible signs and causes no harm. Many people have this defect and go on with their lives without knowing. There is usually no treatment required for this defect.
3) Meningocele- This defect causes the spinal cord to come through into a sac that sits at the lower back and is filled with nerve fluid. There is often no nerve damage, and many children grow up just fine. Some children may get surgery to prevent paralysis or further complications.
4) Myelomeningocele, also called Spina Bifida Cystica- This defect is the most severe of the cases of spina bifida. This defect is when the spinal cord comes through the opening of the spine. Infants usually have nerve damage and disabilities. Also, their brains are likely to be filled with too much fluid, and the defect causes challenges to drain the fluid as it should, this can also lead to brain damage. Infants with this defect are usually operated on within a few days of birth to prevent further nerve damage and damage to the spinal cord.
- Take Folic Acid when you are/trying to get pregnant
- Avoid having a high a fever during pregnancy especially in the first trimester
- If you have spina bifida pre pregnancy your intake of folic acid should be extra
- Avoid valproic acid
As there are different types of spina bifida, the symptoms of each case may vary.
Occulta (mildest form)
- Most kids with this form have no signs and symptoms
- They also experience no neurological problems
- The way it is identifies is usually having a X-ray or MRI scan for another problem
- Some symptoms could be a collection of fat around the area, irregular clump of hair or a small birthmark or dimple
- No symptoms
Myelomeningocele (most severe)
- Weak leg muscles, can involve paralysis
- Bowel bladder problems
- Orthopedic problems (un even hips, curved spine, deformed feet)
- Hand eye coordination
- Fluid filled sac on back
- 90% of cases are identifies in the first 18 weeks (ultrasound)
- After it can be detected by MRI scans or X-Rays
- It can also be detected when the baby is born and a fluid filled sac is found on the back
Spina bifida can develop in the first month pregnancy when the two sides of the bays spine fail to join together leaving an open area. Depending on the situation the spinal cord and other membranes may be pushed through this opening . It could leave a lump in the baby's back. The treat can be detected before birth and is a immediate threat.
Usually the best treatment option you can get is surgery . If the threat is not very severe then the surgery will be minor and usually the baby won't have any health problems later on in life. So far surgery is the best and usually the only option. For example baby's with myelomeningocele which is a type of spina bifida and the most severe. It is when the meninges and push through the hole in the baby's back they with receive more immediate attention.
If the defect is detected early enough, surgery may be preformed even while the baby is still in the womb.
Effect on Parents
Parents who have a child with spina bifida will receive support medical teams and several doctor like neurosurgeons and urologist. It is hard the disease could have emotion affect on the parents. However the ultimate goal is to have the disease interfere as least as possible in the baby's everyday life and it can be possible.
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