Causes of Spina Bifida

Although scientists are not sure why the neural tubes fail to develop or close correctly in some infants, they think that the causes may be genetic, nutritional, environmental or a combination of the three. Maternal nutritional state, exposure to radiation, drugs and chemicals as well as a genetic predisposition may act together to cause neural tube defects.

There does appear to be some definite risk factors that increase the chance of having a baby with Spina Bifida. For example, a family history of neural tube defect (NTD) clearly plays a role. The rates of Spina Bifida are significantly higher among couples in which at least one was born with a neural tube defect or has a close relative with one. Still, 95 percent of babies born with Spina Bifida have no family history of it.

Here are some of the other risk factors that increase the risk of a Spina Bifida-affected pregnancy:

  • Previous pregnancy affected by Spina Bifida
  • First, second, or third degree relative living with Spina Bifida
  • Taking valproic acid or carbamazepine (anti-seizure medications)
  • Having diabetes before pregnancy (not gestational diabetes)
  • Inadequate folic acid intake
  • Pre-pregnancy obesity
  • Low vitamin B-12 levels in the body
  • Having high temperatures early in pregnancy (which may include fever, or exposure to the heat of hot tubs, saunas, and tanning beds)

Recent News:

Doctors & scientists in the US and Australia have begun studying a possible link between iodine deficiency and neural tube defects.

Washington state officials are stumped by the sharp increase in NTDs in their state. The increase is concentrated to just three counties in central Washington.


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