Spina Bifida

spina bifida fetus

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of Spina Bifida

Birth defects are on a steady rise due to the increasing burden of environmental and associated factors. Among the several reported cases of congenital defects, neural tube defects are common. At present they are affecting millions of children all over the world. People having a familial history of these disorders are 5-10 times more likely to develop neural tube defects than the rest. Spina bifida is one such neural tube defect that affects the spine.

Nearly 5% of the newborns suffer from a particular variant of spina bifida known as spina bifida occulta. With the major technological advancement in the medical field, the occurrence of these diseases can be detected in the pregnancy period itself. Therefore, matters like the continuation of the pregnancy and the associated risks should be consulted with a doctor.

 

What is spina bifida?

spina bifida fetusSpina bifida is a type of neural tube defect characterized by incomplete closure of the backbone and the membrane surrounding the spinal cord. In non-medical terms, it means “split spine”. A gap or split in the spine is observed in this case. This arises from a poorly formed spinal cord and vertebral bones. It usually occurs during the first four weeks of pregnancy. It is a congenital disorder.

The newborns with spina bifida generally have lesion(s) on their spinal cord. These lesions are the sites of damage to the spinal cord and the associated nerves. Numerous complications may stem from this disease. The most important one is paralysis of the lower limbs which depends on the exact location and severity of the lesion. In certain cases, no prominent lesion is observed. But the child may be born with a missing vertebra and may have severe nerve damage.

 

What causes spina bifida?

The exact etiology of spina bifida is still not established. Several research studies in the recent years have proposed certain theories that may explain the complications. It is typically regarded by some neurologists as a multifactorial birth defect. This implies that the disease is attributed to multiple factors like genetic, environmental and dietary factors.

Recent studies have shown that the paucity of folic acid (Vitamin B9) in the diet of pregnant women can increase the risks of the disease. It is therefore advisable that the women of childbearing age should consume 0.4 mg of folic acid daily, or at least 3 months before pregnancy. Women with a history of childbirth with neural tube defect should consume 4.0 mg of folic acid every day before her next pregnancy.

Alcohol consumption increases the risks of macrocytosis, which discard the metabolism of folate in the body. This may eventually lead to neural tube defects. Even after the cessation of alcohol consumption, these women should allow enough time for the formation of healthy bone marrow. Studies have shown a demographic variation of the disease. Hispanics, particularly the Hispanic girls are more susceptible to the disease.

 

What are the main signs and symptoms?

Spina bifida appearenceThe main physical manifestations include-

  • Weakness of limbs
  • Paralysis
  • Orthopedic problems- scoliosis, clubfoot, hip dislocation
  • Urinary incontinence- Kidney dysfunctions, urinary tract infection, lack of bladder control
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Skin irritations and rashes
  • Pressure sores (ulcers)
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Allergy to latex

Babies born with spina bifida have structural abnormalities of the cerebellum. Diagnoses reveal that the posterior portion of the brain is pushed from the back of the skull into the lower neck. The displaced cerebellum often interferes with the normal flow of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In 70-90% of the patients, the corpus callosum is malformed. This leads to a disrupted coordination between the left and the right brain lobes.

The following neurological abnormalities are observed-

  • Executive function: The affected children may face difficulties in planning, organizing and initiating an activity. They may also have a poor working memory and cognitive deficits. Some of these children may also have ADHD.
  • Academic skills: The children may lack mathematical skills, which are mainly associated with the parietal lobe.

 

What are the different types of spina bifida?

Spina Bifida ribbonSpina bifida has three subtypes.

  • Spina bifida occulta: Nearly 15% of the affected people have this form but exhibit no symptoms. Hence it is also called “hidden spina bifida”. In this condition, the spinal cord and the surrounding structures remain inside the body. However, the backbones in the lower back region are poorly formed. A hairy patch or a slight dimple may be present at the site of the defect.
  • Meningocele: It is a moderate form of spina bifida characterized by the presence of a fluid-filled sac outside the back. The sac does not contain the spinal cord or the nerves.
  • Myelomeningocele: It is the most severe form of spina bifida where the spinal cord and the nerves develop outside the body. They mostly remain inside a fluid-filled sac that forms on the back. These children generally have a loss of sensation below the defect. Many of these babies have an accumulation of fluid inside their heads, a condition termed as “hydrocephalus”. It exerts immense pressure on the skull bones that eventually expand to an abnormally large size.

 

How can the disease be diagnosed?

The diagnosis of spina bifida can be done in the gestational period or after childbirth. Both the cases are discussed below-

  • Prenatal diagnosis: The common screen test is the measurement of Maternal Serum Alpha-Fetoprotein (MSAFP).
  • Postnatal diagnosis: X-ray, CT scan, and MRI scan can reveal abnormalities in the spinal cord and the skull.

 

Is it possible to treat spina bifida?

The treatment mainly involves surgery (prenatal or postnatal). Prenatal surgeries are performed by surgically exposing mother’s uterus before the 26th week of pregnancy. Fetal surgeries reduce the extent of disability the child might have after birth. Cesarean birth is sometimes a safer way to deliver in case the fetus has myelomeningocele.

Treatment is also required for the complications arising due to spina bifida. Walking and mobility aids such as crutches, braces, walkers, wheelchairs etc. can help the child to walk and move around. Children facing difficulties in bowel management can be given oral medications, suppositories, and enemas. Surgical intervention or a combination of two or more methods can be opted based on the condition. Bladder management is done by the use of medications or catheters.

Though the exact reason behind the neural tube defect is unknown, prevention of spina bifida is possible to a certain extent by focussing on the diet and overall health of the expecting mother. A balanced diet rich in folate and other nutrients is essential.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • As folate deficiency can possibly cause spina bifida, pregnant females and females trying to conceive should take optimum levels of vitamin B supplements. Include veggies (such as beans, broccoli, and spinach) and citrus fruits in the diet.
  • Diabetic females should keep an eye on their blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled levels of blood sugar during pregnancy can lead to spina bifida.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight before and during pregnancy. Pre-pregnancy obesity is linked to the increased risk of spina bifida.
Don'ts
  • Take certain medications which interfere with the body’s ability to use folate and folic acid. Females taking anti-seizure medications such as valproic acid should consult a registered physician before planning to conceive.
  • Indulge in smoking and consumption of alcohol during pregnancy as it might lead to neural tube defects in the child.
  • Use saunas and hot tubs during the early months of pregnancy. An increase in the core body temperature can increase the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

 

 

 

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Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
What is the right way to take a pregnancy test? A pregnancy test is undertaken to determine if you have conceived. A home pregnancy test is the most…
Gua sha: Scraping away layers of pain with this ancient healing tool Gua sha is an ancient oriental healing method which focuses on scraping the body with specific tools to…
SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) test Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is an enzyme that is found in every cell of the body and it plays…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
Psyllium Husk: More than just an effective natural laxative Psyllium husk, or isabgol, is a popular natural laxative . But did you in addition to regulating bowels,…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
CERULOPLASMIN- triple marker
Triple Marker Test A triple marker test is an important prenatal test that is performed to detect the presence of chromosomal…
beta hcg test
Beta hCG Test A Beta hCG test measures the level of human gonadotropin hormones present in the blood that is primarliy…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Anhedonia: Does the chronic inability to feel joy affect you too? How often do you feel dragged down by an invisible force? Do you feel an inexplicable emotional numbness…
How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide Can only meat-eaters enjoy delicious juicy steaks and burgers? With seitan, the best meat substitute available today,even vegans…
10 reasons why you should up your selenium intake Selenium, though a trace mineral, is very much integral to your health. Find out how much selenium intake…
waterchestnut
Water Chestnuts: The tastiest ways to include this healthy tuber in your diet Water chestnut is not a nut after all. It is a tuber (much like the potatoes) growing close…
Vagus nerve: 7 health benefits of stimulating the “gut-brain” connection As a matter of fact, there are two vagus nerves namely the left and the right but is…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
fructosamine test
Fructosamine Test A fructosamine test measures blood sugar glucose content. Fructosamine level can indicate blood sugar level in past 2-3…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
Holistic Healing: How does it harmonize your mind, body, and soul? Holistic healing is not one healing method, holistic healing encompasses a variety of techniques such as reiki, accupuncture,…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
Moringa drink
Moringa: This could be the most nutrient-dense food known to us! Moringa is a lush green tree brimming with over 90 essential nutrients required for a healthy mind and…
Agave nectar: The bitter truth about this sweetener revealed Agave nectar is considered to be sweeter than the normal table sugar and even contains higher amounts of…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that bromelain can bring…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
biopsy procedure
Biopsy Biopsy is a procedure of studying a live tissue sample collected from a specific organ for diagnosing a…
ASTtest-liver
AST- Aspartate Aminotransferase Test AST test is a blood test that is used to measure the level of a particular liver enzyme…
hemoglobin variant analysis
Hemoglobin Variant Analysis Hemoglobin variant analysis is a blood test that is used to detect the presence of hemoglobin variants which…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
Rheumatoid Arthritis xray
Arthritis Profile Arthritis profile is a panel of primarily blood tests used to detect the presence of arthritis or check…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…

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