What is Spina Bifida?
The neural tube is embryonic tissue from which the brain and spinal cord develop. Failure to close can result in serious birth defects such as
Spina bifida. There are three main types of Spina bifida: spina bifida occulta, meningocele and myelomeningocele.
Spina bifida occulta is the most common form and the mildest in which one or more vertebrae are malformed and are usually covered by a layer of
skin. This type of This form of spina bifida rarely causes disability.
Meningocele is where the spinal cord develops normally but the meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord) protrude from
a spinal opening. The protuberances may or may not have a layer of skin covering them. In some cases there may be few or no symptoms with this type
of spina bifida, while in others it causes various degrees of paralysis; sometimes with bowel and urinary dysfunction.
Myelomeningocele is the most severe form and can be very serious or even fatal. It occurs when a section of the spinal cord and nerves are
exposed through an opening in the spine or there is a cyst that holds the nerves and often the spinal cord. This normally results in some form of
paralysis and runs a high risk of infection if not closed surgically at birth. There are varying degrees of paralysis, some so severe that
individuals with this type of spina bifida are unable to walk and are often have accompanying bowel and urinary dysfunctions. Generally, the higher on
the back the cyst is, the more severe the paralysis.
For more information on this disorder please visit:
NINDS - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
March of Dimes Foundation
- WebMD, Inc
- BBC Health
Mothers tell their stories...
I told her how sorry I was and that I loved her and did not want her to suffer. I would rather suffer every day for the rest
of my life than to allow her to suffer one moment in life.
~Mom of an Angel
Everything was going great. As already having two "normal" pregnancies under my belt, I felt confident. I knew there
was always that chance of hearing bad news but I said "no, not me, not our baby."
We felt that if our daughter had been in a car accident and was on life support with the same internal injuries, we would
not keep her on life support and let her suffer. This child deserved the same dignity."
~ A grieving mom
I initially thought I would "be brave" and continue my pregnancy. But I came to realize that ultimately it wasn't about
how strong I could be, how deeply I wanted this baby or what important lessons he could teach me. It was about what
he would experience in his short life. Given his diagnosis, he would have known only suffering. As his mother, I
couldn't allow that to happen.
~ A mother at peace
It was our ignorance for believing that all pregnancies led to a healthy baby. It was my arrogance for believing that since
I had the best medical care, took prenatal vitamins even before and during my pregnancy, never took drugs, never smoked
cigarettes and drank about half a glass of wine a year, that our baby would be safe.
~A bereaved mother
A mother will stop at nothing, including her own hurt, both mentally and physically, to protect her child.