Causes & Risk Factors Of Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a type of congenital disability caused by an improperly formed spinal column. Babies with spina bifida are born with a gap in their spinal bones that allows the spinal cord to protrude. In some cases, it can be so severe the nerves of the spinal cord protrude through the child's skin entirely, which can lead to many problematic issues like deformity, paralysis, and muscular weakness. Though spina bifida still is not fully understood, medical experts have found certain things can increase a person's chances of developing spina bifida. A pregnant woman with one of these five risk factors may be more likely to give birth to a child with spina bifida.

Lack Of Folic Acid


This is the leading preventable cause of spina bifida. Folic acid, also called vitamin B9, is an important vitamin needed for a baby to develop properly. Without enough folate or folic acid, the neural tube that runs through the spinal column cannot properly develop. Even some women who regularly take folic acid can end up with a folate deficiency. Things like drinking alcohol to heavily or having a condition preventing folate absorption can result in a lack of folic acid. Even if a woman starts getting enough folate after conception, a previous deficiency can cause problems. Pregnant women need at least 0.4 milligrams per day of folic acid for at least three months before conception to keep a lack of folic acid from causing spina bifida. Fortunately, it is easy for most women to get this level of folic acid because the government requires many companies to enrich their products with folate. Women who eat whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, leafy green vegetables, and dried beans typically get enough folate.

Keep reading to understand the causes and risk factors of spina bifida.

HealthPrep Staff