Fluid can build up and put pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus), which will need to be surgically repaired. A person could develop a loss of bowel and bladder control and have learning disabilities.
No one knows the cause of spina bifida but there are ways to help prevent this birth defect. Women should take folic acid before and during the first three months of pregnancy. Folic acid is a naturally occurring vitamin B found in many foods, including fortified breakfast cereals, dried beans, leafy green vegetables and orange juice.
A woman should get 400 mcg of folic acid each day during their child-bearing years. Women who have a child or sibling with spina bifida, or who have had an affected pregnancy or have spina bifida themselves, should take 4,000 mcg of folic acid for one to three months before and during the first three months of pregnancy.
Folic acid helps a baby's neural tube — the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord — develop properly. It must be taken before and during early pregnancy when the neural tube is developing.
Contact the Clark County Health Department at 744-4482 or www.clarkhealthdept.org for more information on spina bifida and folic acid.
Allison Evans, a Morehead State University student, is an intern at the Clark County Health Department.