Spina bifida, or myelomeningocele, occurs when the spinal cord fails to fully form early in development (in the womb, before most women know they are pregnant). As a result, the malformed spinal cord is open and visible through the skin of the back. This condition requires treatment within the first few days of life and is commonly associated with hydrocephalus. Spina bifida is also associated with other problems of the brain and spinal cord, such as Chiari malformations.
With the use of folate supplementation in maternal vitamins, the incidence of spina bifida has decreased dramatically. Women who are considering getting pregnant should ask their doctors about a maternal vitamin which contains folate.
Children with spina bifida are followed at both Children's Hospital and the Spina Bifida Clinic at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children.