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What causes spina bifida?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
The exact cause of spina bifida remains a mystery. No one knows what disrupts the complete closure of the neural tube, causing a malformation to develop. Scientists suspect genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors play a role. Research studies indicate that insufficient intake of folic acid -- a common B vitamin -- in the mother's diet is a key factor in causing spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Prenatal vitamins that are prescribed for the pregnant mother typically contain folic acid as well as other vitamins.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that results from the improper forming of the neural tube, the part of the developing baby that eventually becomes the brain, spinal cord, and surrounding tissue. If the tube does not develop properly or fails to close, the defect occurs in varying degrees.

Doctors are not sure what causes the improper formation of the tube, but they suspect it has something to do with low amounts of folic acid, a vitamin given with prenatal supplements. Genetic and environmental risk factors may also explain the birth defect.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.