Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect occurring in fetal development when tissue around the spinal cord does not close properly. The cause of spina bifida is still unclear. Severe forms of spina bifida can lead to physical disabilities. A person with spina bifida may be paralyzed, have abnormal bladder and bowel function, have seizures and even die.
The most severe form of spina bifida, called myelomeningocele, requires surgery in the first 48 hours after birth. A doctor will perform this emergency surgery to prevent further nerve damage. A doctor will work with a specialized team for the individualized treatment of your baby.
Heart defects occur when any part of a baby’s heart does not develop properly in the womb. Known as congenital heart defects, they can range from a hole in the heart’s chambers to abnormal blood flow or the heart may have several deformities.
Heart defects have a range of causes including viral diseases in the mother, presence of diabetes, certain medications and missing genes. In fact, missing genetic material on chromosome 22 has been identified as one of the causes of heart defects.
Many children with Down syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome also have heart defects. If a heart defect is suspected, you will be referred to a pediatric cardiologist. After conducting chest x-rays, electrocardiograms or echocardiogram, the cardiologist may decide to repair the heart defect in your baby before her first birthday.
Cerebral palsy is the collective term for a group of movement disorders that is caused by injury to the brain. Occurring in 10,000 babies every year, the disorder interferes with communication between the body and the brain, thereby causing a lack of muscle coordination.
The disorder can range from mild movement problems to a severe degree of being paralyzed, having abnormal bladder and bowel function, seizures, and developmental delay.
The cause of cerebral palsy is not entirely clear but some factors include maternal infection with German measles, blood disorders and premature birth. Usually diagnosed by two to three years of age, children with cerebral palsy will work with a team of surgeons, pediatricians, physical therapists, and occupational therapists for individualized treatment. Depending on the specific case, surgery or drugs may be recommended.
Prevention of Birth Defects
To help protect against many birth defects, including neural tube disorders, cleft lip and palate, women of reproductive age are encouraged to consume adequate amounts of folic acid. All women need about 400mg of folic acid every day.
Women who are already pregnant need 600 mg of folic acid a day. Women who are at risk of having baby born with neural tube defects need to start taking 4000mg of folate every day up to three months before conception.