About Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect that happens in the first month of pregnancy when the spinal column doesn’t close completely and results in nerves that are damaged.  It is the most common permanently disabling birth defect.

An estimated 70,000 people in the U.S. are currently living with spina bifida.

Every day an average of eight babies born in the U.S. are affected by spina bifida or a similar birth defect of the brain and spine.  This equates to about 3,000 pregnancies each year.

Advances in medical treatments have opened up new worlds for people living with spina bifida.   Children and adults with spina bifida are living longer, more productive lives that were dreamed of just 20 years ago!

The three most common types of spina bifida are:

Types of spina bifida: Spina bifida occulta, meningocele, myelomeningocele

Myelomeningocele – (My-Lo-Men-ing-O-seal)
Myelomeningocele is the most serious type of spina bifida and what most people are referring to when they say spina bifida. With this type of spina bifida, the spine does not properly close and a sac of fluid pushes through an opening in the baby’s back.  When the sac pushes through, a section of the spinal cord and some nerves push through with it and are damaged. This type of spina bifida causes moderate to severe disabilities, such as problems  with bowel and bladder function, loss of feeling in a person’s legs or feet, and loss of mobility in the legs.

Meningocele – (Men-ing-O-seal)
With meningocele, the spine does not properly close and  a sac of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back.  However, the spinal cord does not push through in the sac and so there is usually little or no damage to nerves. This type of spina bifida is not usually as severe but can cause minor disabilities.

Spina Bifida Occulta – (Uh-cult-a)
Spina bifida occulta is the mildest type of spina bifida and is sometimes called “hidden” spina bifida. With this condition, there is a small gap in the spine, but no opening or fluid sac pushing through. In most cases, the spinal cord and the nerves are normal. Because there are no obvious outward symptoms, often spina bifida occulta is not discovered until late childhood or adulthood. This type of spina bifida usually does not cause any disabilities.

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