Spina Bifida is a congenital disease in which the formation of the spine does not occur properly. It is a disorder of the neural tube which is an embryonic structure that develops into the child’s brain and spinal cord. The neural tube starts to form early in the course of pregnancy and closes towards the end of the first month of conception. In babies with spina bifida the neural tube does not develop properly causing defects in the spinal cord and the vertebrae. Spina bifida can cause mild to severe complications depending upon the size and type of deformity.
Risk Factors Associated with Spina Bifida
The cause of Spina bifida is not known till date but it is presumed to occur due to the following risk factors:
- Folate deficiency or genetic factors
- Poorly controlled diabetes during pregnancy can result in a child with spina bifida
- Obesity leading to neural tube defects
- High body temperature in early weeks of pregnancy
Complications Caused by Spina Bifida includes
- Walking and mobility problems
- Orthopedic complications
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Accumulation of fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus)
- Shunt malfunction
- Chiari malformation type II
- Infection in the tissues surrounding the brain (meningitis)
- Tethered spinal cord
- Sleep-disordered breathing
- Skin problems
- Latex allergy
Prevention of Spina Bifida
Spina Bifida can be prevented only before the birth of a child. Sometimes an ultrasound or AFP tests can diagnose whether the baby has spina bifida. In other cases, a visible sign on the back of the newborn can help diagnose the condition. Since the condition usually develops in the first few weeks of the pregnancy (often before the woman knows she is pregnant), doctors recommend the following preventive measure to reduce the risk of spina bifida in the baby:
- A regular consumption of folic acid before planning a pregnancy is usually recommended. Consult your doctor to know how much is required and till which stage of the pregnancy you have to take a regular dose. Vitamin supplements infused with folic acid are a great way to consume folic acid with ease and safety. There are several foods that contain folic acid, such as enriched bread, pasta, rice, a few cereals, beans & peas, citrus fruits, egg yolks, milk, avocados, and dark green vegetables.
- A consumption of high vitamin foods, especially foods that contain vitamin B can aid in preventing spina bifida.
Treatment of Spina Bifida
The complete treatment of spina bifida is not possible by just using rehabilitation and medication techniques. Usually, doctors perform surgeries before the birth of the baby to treat spina bifida. But since this is a surgery that is highly niche, it is not performed in every city around the country. Other surgery treatments are performed after the baby is born.
One can also manage spina bifida through physical activities that reduce the complications that hamper a person’s daily activities. These physical activities include:
- Sports and exercise therapy
- A brisk morning or evening walk
- Exercises recommended by physical therapists
- Attend summer camps and recreational activities
Rehabilitation of Spina Bifida
Sometimes spina bifida goes undetected all together. Later on in life, this condition can cause multiple physical complications as mentioned before. One can use a wide range of daily aids and rehabilitation aids to help manage the complications of spina bifida. These include:
- Daily Living Aids – Spina Bifida can hamper a person’s ability to execute daily functions with ease. Daily living aids such as bath safety aids, kitchen aids, reaching aids, dressing aids, dining & drinking aids, household aids, personal care aids, etc. can be essentially helpful to cope with the reduced ability caused by spina bifida.
- Mobility Aids – Mobility aids such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, rollators, etc. can be of great use to help a person’s mobility. They are also used to rehabilitate a person who has undergone a surgery to treat spina bifida.
- Back Supports – The spine can become deformed if spina bifida is not detected or treated for a long time. An individual can use back supports such as lumbar supports, clavicle supports, posture correctors, etc. to support the back and provide great comfort and safety.
- Cervical Products – Cervical collars and cervical pillows can be of great help to support a person’s spine while sleeping or moving around in the house. They help in keeping the neck straight and allow for controlled motion to prevent damage to the spine.
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Frequently asked questions
Spina bifida is a prenatal defect in which the vertebrae do not properly form around the spinal cord. In severe cases s part of the spinal cord or associated nerves may be exposed which may cause nerve damage and lead to serious problems. in such cases, surgery may be needed soon after birth.
Spina bifida develops in the early stage of pregnancy, even before a woman knows she is pregnant.
It is possible for a woman toreduce her chance of having a baby with spina bifida by having a healthy diet and taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy.
Conditions that are associated with SB usually include mobility impairments, bowel and bladder complication, latex allergies, tendonitis, obesity, skin breakdown, gastrointestinal disorders, learning disabilities, depression, and social and sexual issues.
It is recommended to take a prenatal vitamin with the recommended 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy that can help prevent birth defects like spina bifida.