Munson Health
Spina Bifida

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Prenatal Testing

A blood test of the mother before birth can predict the risk of spina bifida. If the test predicts a high risk of neural tube defects, then two more tests may be done:
  • Amniocentesis —a sample of the fluid surrounding the baby is taken to measure for factors indicating problems of the spine
  • Ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to look at the fetal spine
A diagnosis before birth can help you and your doctor make plans. Surgery may be needed soon after birth.

After Birth Testing

After birth, meningocele and myelomeningocele are usually found on physical exam. Many tests will be needed to find out which bones and nerves are involved. The kidneys may also be damaged. They will need to be watched closely.
Most children with occulta spina bifida will never be diagnosed. This condition rarely causes any symptoms. It also has few complications. It may be discovered during a routine medical exam. It may also be found following x-rays of the lower back.


To help reduce the chance that your baby will be born with spina bifida:
  • If you plan to have a baby, take folic acid supplements before the baby is conceived. They should also be continued throughout the pregnancy. A vitamin supplement containing folate may be the most reliable method of getting folate, but you can get it from food as well. Foods with significant quantities of folate include:
    • Leafy green vegetables
    • Orange juice
    • Beans
    • White flour products and cereals fortified with folate
  • Plan your pregnancy . Talk to your doctor if you have any of the risk factors listed above. Ask your doctor if any medications that you are taking increase the risk of having a baby with spina bifida.


March of Dimes

Spina Bifida Association of America



Sick Kids—The Hospital for Sick Children

Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada



Aherens K, Yazdy MM, Mitchell AA, Werler MM. Folic acid intake and spina bifida in the era of dietary folic acid fortification. Epidemiology. 2011;22(5):731-737.

Spina bifida. American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website. Available at: Updated May 28, 2014. Accessed June 3, 2014.

Spina bifida. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 21, 2013. Accessed June 3, 2014.

12/3/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Shin M, Besser LM, Siffel C, et al. Prevalence of spina bifida among children and adolescents in 10 regions in the United States. Pediatrics. 2010;126(2):274-279.


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