Spina Bifida

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Spina Bifida is one of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects (NTDs). It results from the failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. Spina Bifida is one of the most common severe birth defects in the United states, affecting approximately on out of every 1000 newborns. The risk of an infant being born with spina bifida is affected by the birth mother's diet, especially the amount of the B vitamin, folic acid, that she consumes.

Because of paralysis resulting from damage to the spinal cord, babies born with spina bifida may need surgeries and other extensive medical care. While the milder forms of spina bifida can be symptomless, the most severe form may necessitate a series of operations throughout childhood.

Often, children need to learn mobility skills. The use of braces, crutches or wheelchairs may help them achieve more independence. Studies show that about 70% of affected children are able to walk, with or without aids. Many children need training to learn to manage their bowel and bladder functions, and a large percentage also have hydrocephalus, an accumulation of fluid on the brain which is controlled surgically with a shunt. Other common related conditions are learning problems and an allergy to latex.

With treatment, most children with spina bifida live well into adulthood and become active individuals.

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