Skip to main content

Spina Bifida in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect that prevents your child's vertebrae from forming correctly. The nerves in your child's spinal cord may be exposed, or form outside the vertebrae or skin.

What are the types of spina bifida?

Spina bifida has several types. Each type may affect your child in a different way. Your child may have nerve or brain damage. These increase his or her risk for learning disabilities, fluid buildup in the brain, or seizures. He or she may have delays in education, self-care, and social skills. He or she may need to use a wheelchair, cane, or crutches. He or she may also have problems controlling his or her bladder and bowels.

What are the signs and symptoms of spina bifida?

How is spina bifida diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider may be able to diagnose spina bifida before your child is born. This is done through blood tests, amniotic fluid tests, and ultrasound during pregnancy. Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child just after birth to check his or her strength and response to touch. Contrast liquid may be given to help your child's spine and skull show up better in pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you or your child had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is spina bifida treated?

Your child may not need treatment if the spina bifida is mild. More severe forms may need the following:

How will my child's condition be managed?

Your child may need more treatment with nerve, bone, or kidney specialists. Some treatment may last for the rest of his or her life. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the following:

How can I care for my child?

What increases the risk for spina bifida?

How can spina bifida be prevented?

Talk to your healthcare provider if you are a woman of childbearing age and you want to have children. The following are general guidelines to help prevent spina bifida:

Where can I find support and more information?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2024 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Learn more about Spina Bifida

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.