What causes Spina Bifida

 

The cause or causes of Spina Bifida are not well understood.  In a small number of women it appears to be caused by certain medications, most often anti-seizure drugs.  In some cases it has occurred in the family before, but this is relatively uncommon. In the majority of cases the cause of the Spina Bifida is never determined.

It is known that taking a pre-conceptual supplement of folic acid (in addition to dietary folate intake), for a 3 month period before a woman becomes pregnant can reduce the chances that a baby will have Spina Bifida and related conditions of the brain and spinal cord by up to 70-92% depending on what brand of folic acid supplement is taken.

In New Zealand it is estimated that 100,000 babies are conceived every year.   Half of all these pregnancies are unplanned and it is too late to take folic acid to prevent neural tube defects once a woman realises she was pregnant, although there is a proven benefit for the unborn baby for continued supplementation during pregnancy.

Taking a folic acid supplement cannot guarantee parents that a planned pregnancy may not be affected by a neural tube defect. Many of our parents can attest to this!