Spina bifida What is it and prevention

Spina bifida What is it and prevention

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When parents find out they will have a child with spina bifida it can create a distressing situation for them. Spina bifida is a congenital malformation that occurs when the baby's spine does not form normally.

It is a pathology that exposes the spinal cord of the fetus, due to a deficit or incomplete development of the closure of the bone canal of the spine, in the first 26 days of gestation.

The nerve fibers that are part of the spinal cord, remain open and do not develop their transmitting function in a correct way. As we all know, the spinal cord is a very important structure because it carries sensory impulses to the higher nerve centers, and conducts elaborate responses from those to the muscles.

Spina bifida can be located at any point in the spinal cord, even in the lumbar and sacral area, where there are more incidences. The degree of motor impairment will depend on the height at which the spinal cord is damaged, can cause from a loss of flexibility of the toes, up to total paraplegia in its most severe cases.

The closer the injury is to the head, the more serious its consequences are and, conversely, the further it is from the head, the less serious it will be. Three out of every thousand babies are born with spina bifida. The aftermath can be managed, but not completely cured.

Although spina bifida mainly affects the central nervous system, it does not affect the intellectual capacity or cognitive development of the fetus, but it can cause malformations in many of its organs:

- Hydrocephalus: accumulation of fluid in the brain that causes an increase in the size of the head. A drain is often used to remove excess fluid.

- Paralysis of the extremities with sensitivity below the level of spinal cord injury.

- Orthopedic alterations: with hip dislocation and foot deformations.

- Sphincter disorders: with urinary and fecal incontinence.

In addition to the love and care of your family, the control and care of your pediatrician, babies with spina bifida they will also need the guidance of pediatric specialists, as a neurologist, neurosurgeon, urologists, orthopedics, throughout his childhood. In the first 72 hours of life, surgery is performed to repair the bone defect.

From there, if necessary, another surgery is done to resolve the hydrocephalus problem. The rest will be based on therapies, medicines, and controls. At home, care is the same as for any newborn. Parents will receive specific medical guidance and help to treat the baby.

Taking folic acid is a very simple and effective prevention measure since it manages to prevent 78 percent of the fetus from suffering from spina bifida. The administration of a poly-vitamin preparation, rich in folic acid, from one month before becoming pregnant to the second menstrual absence, successfully reduces the risk of spina bifida recurring in the next pregnancy.

For the mother who has given birth to a baby with spina bifida, there is a risk of about 4% that she will have another baby with the same problem again. The risk is small but real. Therefore, in the event of a new pregnancy, parents should go as soon as possible to the obstetrician for control and monitoring.

Sources consulted:
- Project Aprender- M.E.C.
- Health of the Canary Islands government

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