Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a complex condition that requires coordinated care between specialists in neonatology, neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, nephrology, urology, developmental pediatrics and physical medicine.

Remarkable Care for Kids

  • Prenatal testing and support: The Rush Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Center offers prenatal testing, diagnosis and care for pregnant women and unborn babies with spina bifida. The center’s specialized team of neonatologists, nurse practitioners, genetic counselors, and social workers provide you with coordinated support, evaluation, and treatment during your pregnancy and after your baby’s birth.
  • Comprehensive care for babies with spina bifida: Specialists at Rush in maternal-fetal medicine, neonatology, nephrology, neurosurgery, neurology, orthopedics, physical and rehabilitation medicine and urology collaborate to provide your baby with comprehensive care for spina bifida.
  • Top-ranked clinical programs: Rush is consistently ranked among the top U.S. hospitals for orthopedics, urology, nephrology and neurology and neurosurgery in U.S. News & World Report — and many of the doctors in these programs care for children.
  • Immediate attention after birth: Many newborns with spina bifida require immediate medical attention by neonatologists and neurosurgeons after birth. The Renée Schine Crown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rush is located next to labor and delivery and provides immediate neonatal intensive care for your baby within seconds after delivery.
  • Family-centered care: Rush is committed to family-centered care. You will be involved in every aspect of your baby’s care.  

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s spinal cord does not close completely before birth. This condition can cause abnormalities in brain development.

Spina bifida can also include possible damage to the spinal cord and nerves, which may cause some of the following physical and intellectual disabilities:

  • Bone and joint problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain and sensation difficulties in legs and feet
  • Gastrointestinal difficulties
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Learning disabilities
  • Bladder and bowel problems

Spina bifida: things you should know

  • There are three kinds of spina bifida:
    • Myelomeningocele (most common, most serious, most disabling)
    • Meningocele (least common, minor disabilities)
    • Spina bifida occulta (least serious, causes no disabilities)
  • Spina bifida is a complex condition that requires coordinated care between specialists in neonatology, neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, nephrology, urology, developmental pediatrics and physical medicine.
  • Spina bifida can vary in severity — from mild disability to paralysis.
  • Many children with spina bifida have normal intelligence and can move independently (often with braces, crutches or wheelchairs).
  • Spina bifida is one of the most common birth defects in the U.S.
  • While the cause of spina bifida is unknown, experts believe it is caused by genetic, nutritional and/or environmental factors.
  • Taking a multivitamin with folic acid when you are pregnant can significantly reduce the risk of spina bifida.
  • Prenatal tests — including blood work and ultrasound — may be able to determine if your baby has spina bifida. 

Care for spina bifida at Rush

If your unborn baby has spina bifida, you’ll need additional prenatal care. Your baby will also need immediate medical attention when he/she is born.

  • Prenatal care: The fetal and neonatal medicine care team at Rush will work with you to develop a prenatal care strategy and a labor and delivery plan to help you and your baby stay as healthy as possible throughout the rest of your pregnancy.
  • Neonatal intensive care: Babies born with spina bifida need highly specialized intensive care when they are born. The NICU doctors at Rush provide this care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Surgery: Pediatric neurosurgeons at Rush perform brain and spinal surgery for babies with spina bifida to prevent further nerve, spine and brain damage.
  • Expert referral: After your baby is born and stabilized at Rush, your baby’s doctors will refer you to a respected medical center that provides comprehensive outpatient care.