OHSU

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a spinal cord that does not develop normally before birth. Before a baby is born, it develops a structure called the neural tube. During pregnancy, the neural tube develops into the brain and spinal cord.

Spina bifida happens when the neural tube does not develop into a normal spinal cord that protects the spinal bones (vertebrae) and other tissues. Sometimes part of the spinal canal (area around the spinal cord) is open.

Causes of spina bifida

Doctors aren't always sure what causes spina bifida. Some causes include:

  • Family history of similar problems (neural tube defects)
  • Not enough folic acid in pregnancy

Symptoms of spina bifida

Symptoms depend on how serious the spina bifida is. Some children have a very mild form and might never know they have it. Other children are born with the spinal canal (area around the spinal cord) open.

Spina bifida can cause:

  • Infection (if the spinal canal is open)
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Small dimple, tuft of hair or fat on the back

The spina bifida team at the OHSU Child Development and Rehabilitation Center cares for patients of all ages. We want to help your child be as healthy as possible and function as well as he or she can.

If your baby is diagnosed with spina bifida or another neural tub defect before birth, the OHSU Fetal Therapy Program can help you get ready for delivery and caring for your child. Learn more about Fetal Therapy for spina bifida.

Our team of experts includes:

  • Developmental pediatrician
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner
  • Registered nurse
  • Medical social worker
  • Physical therapist.

You may also work with OHSU Doernbecher specialists in neurosurgery, urology, occupational therapy, special education, psychology, audiology and speech therapy.