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Facts and Tips about Spina bifida

The Facts on Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a type malformation that occurs during early fetal development. It's known as a type of neural tube defect (NTD), in which either the brain and spine or only the spine fails to develop properly in the womb. There are three types of spina bifida, which vary according to the severity of the malformation:

  • myelomeningocele: the most severe form; both the spinal cord and its lining (the meninges) protrude from an opening in the spine
  • meningocele: only the lining protrudes
  • spina bifida occulta: the mildest form, there is a breach in the spinal vertebrae but it's covered by skin

These malformations are usually in the lower back or at the level of the hips.

The frequency of spina bifida in Canada has been declining gradually. In 1989, the rate was 1.1 per 1,000 total births; in 1996, it was 0.77 per 1,000 total births. This is mainly due to improved diet among Canadian mothers and supplementation with folic acid. There are about 200 spina bifida births each year in Canada.
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Who is at higher risk?

Women who:
  • have a child with spina bifida
  • have spina bifida themselves
  • have already had a pregnancy affected by any neural defect
are at greater risk of having a child affected by spina bifida or another neural tube defect. These women may need to get a prescription for folic acid before trying to become pregnant, so it's important to plan any future pregnancy. Please speak with your health care provider about folic acid.

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This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient.
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