Spina Bifida Risk Factors
Although a clear cause of spina bifida is unknown, Mayo Clinic researchers note a prevalence for the birth defect among certain races (i.e., Hispanic), genders (i.e., female), and among families with a history of neural tube defects.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic notes that certain environmental factors—such as women with diabetes, taking anti-seizure drugs (i.e., Depakene), folate deficiency, pre-pregnancy obesity, and higher than normal body temperature (or hyperthermia) during early pregnancy—may increase the risk of spina bifida.
Spina Bifida Testing and Treatment
There are three tests that can detect spina bifida in babies prior to birth. First, a maternal amniocentesis uses a thin needle to extract fluid from the womb to test for protein levels. Secondly, an ultrasound can detect the presence of an open spine. Thirdly, an alpha-fetoprotein blood test can screen for spina bifida between week 16 and 18 of pregnancy.
Surgery is an option for babies born with Meningomyelocele spina bifida during the first few days after birth to prevent further spinal cord damage, as well as infections. Children born with Occult Spinal Dysraphism (or OSD) may require surgery to prevent further brain and nerve damage as they grow.
Spina Bifida Prognosis
The Spina Bifida Association notes that between 90- and 75-percent of children born with the birth defect attend school, are physically active, and thrive into adulthood.
Depending on the severity, ongoing treatments and surgeries may be required by a collaborative team of psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, urologists, neurosurgeons, and orthopedists.