Spina bifida: causes and effects

Crippled with permanent birth defect can prove to be a shocking experience for any family member. The worst amongst them all is 'Spina Bifida'. Derived from the Latin words 'Spina' and 'Bifida' meaning 'spine' and 'split' respectively.

In simple words, it is a malformation of the spinal cord. It is caused by an incomplete closure of one or more vertebral arches of the spine.

In Canada alone, one in every 1000 live births are born with symptoms of spina bifida. Similarly, in the United States, spina bifida occurs in about seven out of 10000 live births where common symptoms like paralysis in limbs, walking difficulties and muscular co-ordination are quite evident.


Referred to as one of the 'Neutral tube defects', it affects the totality of spinal vertebrae leading to permanent deformity and paralysis for life.

Normally, it begins in the mother's womb, much before she knows that she is pregnant. Here the tissues fold to form a neutral tube, which may or may not be developed completely. This leads to an opening in certain parts of the vertebral arch, which in turn result into the malfunctioning of the central nervous system.

According to medical research studies, it has been proved that expectant mothers with the following health problems have a high chance of their newborn suffering from spina bifida.


The effects of having spina bifida vary from person to person. It depends upon the level of spina bifida. It could be of the following types:


It is a gynecologist who could give you first hand pre-natal medical test reports to indicate the signs of spina bifida. Thereafter, after the birth of a newborn, it is neuro-surgeon that is responsible for further treatment and rehabilitation.