Spina bifida is a condition wherein the bones of the spine left an opening during development which results in the premature formation of the spinal cord. The condition is commonly termed as an open spine or a split spine owing to the opening left on the vertebral bone. Infants are prone to developing spina bifida and about eight American babies are born with this infantile defect every day. During the first month of life, the developing baby grows a structure called a neural tube which will eventually form the spine and the nervous system. In cases of spina bifida, a problem occurs in the development of the spinal column, resulting in the anatomic and neural defects seen in infants.
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What Causes Spina Bifida?
The condition is a classic form of a neural tube defect, which is a birth defect of the brain and the spinal cord and considered to an infantile disorder. The exact cause of spina bifida is unknown, but several risk factors that predispose to the condition have been identified. These are the following:
- Not having folic acid during pregnancy
- Having a family member that has a neural tube defect
- Pregnant women who took certain medications that are usually indicated for bipolar disorder, epilepsy and contraception
- In women with diabetes
- Obese women
How to Prevent Spina Bifida?
The development of spina bifida happens during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Although taking folic acid supplements does not give any guarantee that your baby will not develop spina bifida, it can reduce the risk of having it. It is recommended that all women who can become pregnant should take folic acid supplements.
If you are an expectant mother, the following are tips recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that may help you prevent the baby from having spina bifida:
- Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Should your current pregnancy is affected by spina bifida, talk to your physician right away.
- Always talk to your doctor about medications and whether they affect your pregnancy
- Avoid overheating your body, such as use of hot tub or sauna
- If you have a medical condition such as diabetes or obesity, make sure that it is under control.
- If you have a fever, you can help by taking acetaminophen right away.
Natural sources of folic acid include broccoli, peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, brown rice, chickpeas and some breakfast cereals. If you are taking any supplement medications or standing medications for a particular condition, talk to your physician before taking folic acid supplements.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Spina Bifida. Retrieved on June 24, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/spinabifida/facts.html