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Spina bifida is a condition that begins in early pregnancy where part of the baby's spine does not form completely. That can leave part of the spinal cord uncovered. In minor cases, the spinal cord stays right where it should, and the child is fine. But when the spinal cord bulges outside of the body, it can be damaged. That makes it hard for the brain to send messages to the lower parts of the body. This can cause problems, commonly with walking and bladder control. Some babies with spina bifida also have too much fluid around their brains. This can be treated with surgery.
Spina bifida affects each child differently. Early surgery can reduce nerve damage for some children. Your doctor may use medicine to stop or prevent infection. You may start working with a physiotherapist in your baby's first few weeks to learn exercises to make the muscles stronger. As your child grows, you and your doctor will develop a treatment plan to help your child be active. Braces, wheelchairs, and other devices help many children with spina bifida to be active and independent.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if your child has any problems.
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Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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