Women can lower spina bifida risk
October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month. Spina bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect, affecting 166,000 Americans. Kentucky has one of the highest rates in the country.
Spina bifida is a birth defect that results in the spinal cord protruding from a baby's back. The back can be surgically closed before or after birth, but damage to the spinal cord can cause paralysis, hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), bowel and bladder issues, and other challenges.
No one knows what causes spina bifida, but women can reduce their risk by up to 70 percent by taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily for three months prior to conception. Every woman of childbearing age should take a daily multivitamin.
There is a wide range of outcomes. Some use wheelchairs; others use braces, crutches or walkers; and some walk independently. The majority have normal intelligence but can have learning challenges. Spina bifida is only one part of them and does not define them. They can become teachers, doctors, musicians, athletes, parents or anything they want to be.
The Spina Bifida Association of Kentucky is the resource center for more than 800 affected families in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Our mission is to promote the prevention of spina bifida and enhance the lives of all affected. We provide playgroups and camps for children, educational classes for parents, life skills classes for teens and young adults, a financial assistance fund, and much more.
If you would like to learn more, visit www.sbak.org.
Colleen Payne, Executive director, Spina Bifida Association of Kentucky, Louisville