Pregnancy gives a couple all the reasons to celebrate but there are times when celebrations are short-lived. The news of the baby suffering from birth defects can be devastating. Spina bifida is a birth defect which can be diagnosed and even treated before birth. Also, it can be prevented by taking certain prenatal precautions. Therefore, infertility centres in Delhi encourage patients to know all about the condition so that it can be handled effectively.

All about Spina Bifida

Spina bifida, also known as neural tube defect, is characterized by improper development of neural tube. Neural tube is the structure in the growing embryo which subsequently develops into brain and spine. It forms in early pregnancy and develops completely by 28th day of conception. However, if it fails to close properly, the baby is inflicted by the birth defect called spina bifida. The condition can range between mild and severe. The severity of the condition determines the approach that infertility centres in Delhi take towards it.

Spina Bifida Occulta is the mildest form of spina bifida, which usually does not need to be treated. The condition hardly has any neurological symptoms; there is a small gap in the spina vertebrate, which may be visible as a hairy path, dimple or birthmark. People seldom come to know about it unless they have an X-ray of the area due to some other reason.

Meningocele refers to a more severe form of spina bifida, where the membranes around the spinal cord bulge in the skin. The spinal fluid leaks and pushes against the skin. The condition can be treated with surgical repair of the membranes as the spinal cord develops normally.

Myelomeningocele is spina bifida in its severest and rarest form and is actually the condition that people refer to as spina bifida. It is characterized by the spinal canal being open, with nerves being damaged. A bulge may be seen protruding in the form of a sac at the back. In more severe cases, the skin may be open and nerves exposes, putting the baby at risk of life-threatening infections.

Causes and Symptoms

The exact cause of spina bifida has not been detected yet, though experts hold genetic and environmental factors responsible. For instance, if the first child has been born with spina bifida, the risk is higher in the subsequent pregnancies too. Obesity and diabetes in the woman also elevate the chances of having babies with spina bifida. Folate deficiency during pregnancy is another possible reason, while women exposed increased body temperature during early pregnancy are also at high risk.

A child suffering from mild form of spina bifida seldom shows ay symptoms. On the other hand, neurological impairment is common for those with the more severe form. There can be muscular weakness and even paralysis of the legs, while bladder and bowel issues can also be there. Some children may suffer from seizures due to hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in the brain). In some cases, there may be orthopedic problems, such as curve in the spine (scoliosis), deformed feet and uneven hips.

Diagnosis of Spina Bifida during Pregnancy

Spina bifida is a complicated condition that can affect the life quality of the child. The severe form may be resolved with surgery and therapy, though complete cure is not possible. However, the silver lining is that the birth defect can be diagnosed during pregnancy. A prenatal blood test called maternal serum triple or quadruple screen helps detect the possibility of spina bifida. It checks the level of alpha fetoprotein (AFP) in the blood and higher than normal indicates the risk of neural tube defect.

If the results are suggestive of the birth defect, the woman may be recommended to take another test called amniocentesis. This test involves screening the fluid sample from the amniotic sac for high AFP levels. Higher levels of the protein indicate that the neural tube is open and the baby is likely to have spina bifida. The findings can be confirmed with an ultrasound scan. An advanced scan can indicate any deformities in the brain or spine.

Dealing with Spina Bifida

When spina bifida is diagnosed prior to pregnancy, the woman has to be counseled to deal with it. The infertility clinics in Delhi have specialized team of experts to look after such cases. Some clinics even perform high-tech prenatal surgeries to repair the defect before the birth. But this may not be feasible for all as it increase the risk of premature birth. Cesarean birth is recommended for women with the diagnosis of spina bifida. In cases the damage has already occurred, the parents are prepared in advance to deal with the complications.

While it is important to know about dealing with the issue, the vital fact is that spina bifida is preventable. A woman can take some precautions before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk. Daily intake of folic acid is a effective step in this direction. She can do so by relying on diet rich in the nutrient (citrus fruits, leafy greens, eggs and fortified cereals) as well as supplementation. She has to start the same at least three months prior to conception.

Certain medications such as those for acne and seizures can cause birth defects in the baby. Therefore, a pregnant woman should always consult her specialist before taking them during pregnancy. It is important to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. High body temperature during early pregnancy should also be taken care of. So, fever should be treated at the earliest and a woman should also avoid sauna and hot tubs.

Gaudium IVF, the top IVF clinic in Delhi, is a trusted name where patient can get the best treatment for the most complicated infertility issues and pregnancy complications. Contact today for free second opinion from Dr Manika Khanna, the expert infertility specialist in Delhi.