What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is one of a number of defects called neural tube defects. The neural tube is the group of cells that form during fetal development and will eventually form the brain and spinal cord of the embryo. The term spina bifida means cleft (or split) spine and is characterized by incomplete formation of the bones in the spine (vertebrae) that fail to completely cover the baby's spinal cord. There are several types of spina bifida ranging from spina bifida occulta which most often has no symptoms to meningocele which can have no symptoms or more severe symptoms like paralysis and bowel and bladder dysfunction to the most serious form myelomeningocele which results in paralysis of the baby's legs along with loss of bowel and bladder control. In addition, 70-90% of children with myelomeningocele have fluid accumulation in the brain. Spina bifida is a multi-factorial birth defect caused by one or more genes interacting with an adverse environmental factor early in pregnancy.