The birth defect spina bifida (SPY-na BIFF-uh-duh) is a type of neural tube defect. A neural tube defect is a problem with the spinal cord, brain and/or their protective coverings caused by the fetus spine failing to close completely during the first month of pregnancy. This spinal opening can result in nerve damage and spinal cord defects. Within 24 hours after birth, surgery to close the newborns spinal opening is normally performed, but the nerve damage is permanent. This nerve damage can cause paralysis of the legs, learning disabilities, bowel problems or an accumulation of fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus). There is no cure for spina bifida. Treatments include surgery, medication and physiotherapy and depend on the complications related to nerve damage. Taking folic acid can help you reduce the risk of having a baby with spina bifida.