We live at such an amazing time. Knowledge and technology are making a huge impact into health and wellness. This article appeared on my local news channel: Cleveland Clinic Performs In Utero Surgery to Reapir Spina Bifida in Fetus. How exciting when a birth defect can be fixed before a baby is even born!
Spina bifida is a birth defect where the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly in a mother’s womb. Medically they call this a neural tube defect. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that develops into a baby’s brain, spinal cord and surrounding tissue. Spina bifida can happen at any point on the spine. Where this neural tube defect (NTD) occurs affects what limitations a person will have. When the neural tube does not close all the way the backbone does not develop and there is damage to the nerves and spinal cord. In most cases the neural tube forms and closes by the 28th day after conception.
The nerves in your spinal cord connect all the systems in your body.
Spina bifida can affect both the physical abilities and intellectual abilities of an individual. The severity of the symptoms depends on the size, type and location of the defect.
Symptoms range from little to no disability to limitations on how your body moves and functions. However, this can cause paralysis and some sufferers may not be able to walk or move certain body parts.
1600 babies are born with spina bifida in the US every year.
3 Types of Spina Bifida:
- Occulta – mildest form
Causes & Risk Factors
There is no specific cause for getting spina bifida. However a combination of a family history of neural tube defects and a folate deficiency seem to be linked to a higher risk. Causes are not understood, so don’t play the blame game or feel like you failed.
Pregnant or trying to get pregnant females should take folic acid every day. Folic acid seems to decrease the risk of spina bifida. Make sure your doctor knows all your medications, even non-prescription to make sure none can harm your baby. It is also recommended to not overheat in a hot tub or sauna and to take acetaminophen for a fever.
While pregnant your doctor will perform varies screening tests to check for birth defects. Spina bifida is one test they will perform. These are the most common tests for spina bifida:
- AFP – alpha-fetoprotein. This is a blood test that measures how much AFP has passed from the baby to the mother. A high level of AFP could be a warning sign.
- Ultrasound – An ultrasound allows the doctor to look over the spine of the baby and see if there are any defects showing.
- Amniocentesis – This test looks for the AFP level in the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. A high AFP level could be a sign.
This is the good news. Even those born with spina bifida can usually lead full productive lives.
But if this surgery works and spina bifida can be corrected in utero, that would be amazing!!!