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October is Spina bifida Awareness Month

This month we bring awareness to Spina bifida. What is Spina bifida? It is a birth defect that happens with the spine and spinal cord don't form properly. Spina bifida is also known as a neural tube defect. What is a neural tube? This is the structure in the developing embryo that becomes the baby’s brain, spinal cord and tissues that enclose them.

During pregnancy the neural tube closes by the 28th day after conception. With Spina bifida, a portion of the neural tube does not close of develop properly, causing defects in the spinal cord and in the bones of the spine. SB, can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of defect, size, location and complications.

There are different types of Spina bifida, spina bifida occulta, myelmeningocele.

Spina bifida occulta - most of the time there are no signs or symptoms because the spinal nerves aren’t involved. Sometimes you can see signs on a newborn’s skin above the spinal defect, including an abnormal tuft of hair, or a small dimple or birthmark.

Myelomeningocele - Severe type of spina bifida:

  • Spinal canal remains open along several vertebrae in the lower of middle back.

  • Both the membranes and the spinal cord or nerves protrude at birth forming a sac.

  • Tissues and nerves usually are exposed, though sometimes skin savers the sac.

Most of the time myelomeningocele is diagnosed before or right after birth, when medical care is available. Children with Spina bifida should be followed by a specialized team of doctors. It is important to have families educated on the different complications to watch for. Children with spina bifida occulta typically don’t have any symptoms or complications, so routine pediatric care is needed.

Doctors are not sure what causes Spina bifida, some say it is a result of a combination of genetics, nutritional and environmental risk factors. SB is common in whites and Hispanics. Females are affected more by SB than males. Doctors have identified some risk factors, folate deficiency, family history of neural tube defects, some medications, diabetes, obesity and increased body temperature during pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor if you have family history of SB, and remember this month so spread awareness.


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