Spina bifida is a type of birth defect. It is a problem with how the spine and spinal cord develop. Spina bifida can begin to develop in a fetus before the mother even knows she is pregnant. In some cases, structures that should be inside the spinal canal can slip out. The structures affected may include:

  • Membranes that surround the spinal cord
  • Nerve roots that connect nerves to the spinal cord
  • Spinal cord
  • Bak bones—may be deformed

Spina Bifida
Spinabifida
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There are three kinds of spina bifida:

  • Occulta—small defect in one or more backbones, least severe form, usually no complications
  • Meningocele—membranes poke through an open part of the spine and can form a cyst
  • Myelomeningocele—most severe form of spina bifida, membranes poke through and contain nerve roots or spinal cord and can lead to
    • Paralysis and incontinence of bowel and bladder may occur—frequently not cured by surgery
    • Hydrocephalus —a build up of fluids in the brain that increase pressure on the brain

The cause of spina bifida is not known. There is a strong genetic factor for some with spina bifida.

Many studies have also shown a link between a low folate diet in the mother and birth defects. In particular, low folate diets are associated with an increased risk of spina bifida.