Lean About Living with Spina Bifida Lean About Living with Spina Bifida
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Spina bifida occurs within the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. It happens when the spine and back bones do not close all the way. When this happens, the spinal cord and back bones do not form as they should. A sac of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back. Often, part of the spinal cord is in this sac and it is damaged.

Most people born with spina bifida live full lives, though they may have lifelong disabilities and need many surgeries. Some of the limitations that a person born with spina bifida might face include:

Not being able to move lower parts of their body. (Some might need to use crutches, braces, or wheelchairs to get around. Loss of bowel and bladder control. (Some might have to wear protective clothing. Others learn new ways to go to the bathroom.) Fluid building up and putting pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus), which needs to be fixed with an operation. Learning disabilities. Allergy to latex (a created material found in some rubber-type products such as balloons or hospital gloves). Living with Spina Bifida

No two people with spina bifida are exactly alike. Health issues and treatments for people with spina bifida will be different for each person. Some people have issues that are more severe than other people. With the right care, individuals born with spina bifida will grow up to reach their full potential.

Learn more about living with spina bifida at various ages and the resources available:

Living with Spina Bifida Homepage Newborns and Infants Toddlers and Preschoolers School-Age Children Adolescents and Teenagers Young Adult


Most, but not all, cases of spina bifida can be prevented.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that the body needs to make healthy new cells. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, her baby is less likely to have spina bifida or another defect of the brain or spine. All women who are pregnant or could become pregnant need to take folic acid every day, starting before they get pregnant.

Every woman who could possibly get pregnant should take 400 micrograms (400 µg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid daily in a vitamin or in foods that have been enriched with folic acid.