Developmental Disabilities

Birth Defects

Birth Defects

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Spina Bifida

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Spina Bifida is the most common birth defect in the United States. It is a type of neural tube defect. The neural tube is a narrow channel that folds and closes during the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy to form the brain and spinal cord. Spina bifida happens if the portion of the neural tube that forms the spinal cord does not close completely during the first month of pregnancy.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year about 1,500 babies in the United States are born with spina bifida. Spina Bifida can cause physical, as well as learning disabilities.

Physical problems might include the following:

  • Difficulty controlling bowel and bladder functions.
  • Partial or complete loss of strength of the legs.
  • People with spina bifida might need crutches, braces or wheelchairs to help them get around.
  • Babies born with spina bifida might experience buildup of fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus)
  • Some babies might develop meningitis, an infection in the tissues surrounding the brain.
  • The cause of spina bifida is unknown, scientists believe that many factors are involved.

Some risk factors that may increase the chance of having a baby with spina bifida might include the following:

  • Hispanic babies are at an increased risk for spina bifida.
  • Mothers who are obese before they become pregnant.
  • There has been a 24% decline in babies born with spina bifida since the United States began fortifying grains with folic acid.

Currently, there is no known way to prevent spina bifida, although steps can be taken to lower the risk. Women of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. A single daily serving of most multivitamins and fortified cereals contain 400 micrograms of folic acid.

From 1989 - 1996 Dr. Turben was Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at John Carroll University. In addition to teaching Teach Education and Early Childhood-Special Education courses, she supervised masters and post-baccalaureate programs that lead to the PreK, Kindergarten, and Early Education of Handicapped Children validations. She has done research concerning the effectiveness of home visits, the importance of neighborhoods as social structures and parent involvement in schools.
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