Spina Bifida (Myelodysplasia)

This birth defect in the spine and spinal cord happens early in pregnancy. The bones of the spine don't fully form around the spinal cord. This creates a gap where nerves push out from the spine. In severe cases, a sac holding part of the spinal cord comes out of the skin of the back.


We don't know what causes spina bifida. It’s more common in whites, Hispanics and females. It may be linked to genetics. It's more common in babies whose mothers are obese or have diabetes. It may be linked to use of certain medications. It's more common in babies whose mothers don't get enough of a vitamin called "folic acid" during pregnancy. And, it may be linked to high body temperature during pregnancy. This can happen if you have a fever or use a sauna.


Symptoms of spina bifida depend on the severity. If it's mild, you may not even know you have it. Or, you may have a dimple, birthmark or tuft of hair on your back. If it's moderate or severe, you can have a wide range of complications. Examples include mobility problems, bladder and bowel problems, infections of the brain, and learning disabilities. Ask your doctor for a full list.


Treatment depends on your needs. Some people don't need treatment. Others may need one or more surgeries, and treatment for complications. Your doctor will create a plan that's right for you.