New Delhi: The chances of the second child having Spina bifida — a defect with incomplete closing of the backbone and membrane around the spinal cord — increases by 10 per cent if the first child also had similar problems, neurosurgeons here said.
The doctors said that though the treatment of such problems needs early intervention, if left untreated, it can poorly impact the child’s walking ability, learning and also bowel control.
“Around five per cent of the new-born have this defect, which is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The chances increase by 10 per cent during the second delivery, if the first child had similar conditions or one of the parents inherited this defect,” said Satnam Chabra, Director of Neurosurgery department at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Spina bifida is a type of birth defect known as neural tube defect. It occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) don’t form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. Spina bifida can be mild or severe.
Chabra, a top Indian neurosurgeon, said the mother’s health condition during pregnancy plays a vital role in determining the defect.
“Apart from genetic conditions, environmental factors may also be a cause in developing Spina bifida. Lack of folic acid in the mother has been one of the most common reasons, which is why mothers are prescribed rich supplements of vitamin B,” Chabra told IANS.
According to the doctors, this defect is usually found in the lower back of the baby and in rare cases, may be found in the middle back or neck and classified into three categories based on the severity — occulta, meningocele, myelomeningocele.
“If a baby is left with the defect, he/she would face a lot of problems later in life. Associated problems include poor ability to walk, learning problems, problems with bladder or bowel control, a tethered spinal cord and latex allergy,” said Arvind Kulkarni, Head of Spine Scoliosis and Disc Replacement Centre at Bombay hospital.
Stating that usually such a defect can be detected during the 6th week of pregnancy through ultrasounds, Kulkarni said that if a doctor (gynecologist) identifies any protrusion (which may be prominent after the 8th month of gestation), the case can be directed to a neurosurgeon for early study and treatment.
“During early detection, mother is advised a diet rich in or supplements of vitamin B as surgery before birth may be a risk factor,” said Kulkarni.
Experts said that only 20 per cent of the cases are diagnosed during pregnancy or immediately after delivery through spinal X-rays or ultrasounds.
“If timely diagnosis and treatment is provided, 90 per cent of babies with Spina bifida live well into adulthood, 80 per cent have normal intelligence and 75 per cent of them participate in modified sports activities,” said Kulkarni.