Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of British Columbia
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is a neural tube defect (NTD). It is the incomplete development of the nervous system and spinal cord causing permanent damage. It occurs within the first four weeks of pregnancy. Spina bifida is the number one disabling birth defect occurring in one in 750 children born in Canada.
Spina bifida results in varying degrees of permanent paralysis, loss of sensation and bladder and bowel dysfunction. In some cases, it can limit hand function, visual, hearing and learning abilities.
Children and youth living with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus require appropriate health care, education, employment and recreational opportunities, and community support to reach their full potential.
What is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within and around the brain. Everyone produces CSF but it normally circulates freely and the excess is absorbed by the body. With hydrocephalus this process is blocked. Hydrocephalus is controlled with the insertion of a tube (shunt) to redirect the overflow fluid elsewhere in the body to be absorbed. Over 80% of individuals with spina bifida have hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus can also occur as a result of trauma, drug reactions and as a part of the aging process.
Hydrocephalus can result in impaired vision, headaches, hearing sensitivity, seizures and mobility impairment. Without treatment, permanent brain damage or even death may occur.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic Acid, Folate, and Folacin all refer to the B vitamin required for a healthy body. Folic Acid is helpful in the development of the spinal canal and the brain during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy.
Where is Folic Acid Found?
Folic Acid is naturally found in green leafy vegetables, dark yellow fruits, and grain products such as whole wheat bread. In Canada, white flour and pasta products that are labeled "enriched" are now being fortified with Folic Acid, yet many Canadian women are not meeting their daily Folic Acid requirements. All women of child bearing years should consume good sources of Folic Acid AND take a multivitamin containing a minimum of 0.4 mg (400mcg) of Folic Acid every day.
Why take Folic Acid?
Scientific research has shown that if women take 0.4 mg of Folic Acid 3-4 months prior to and during pregnancy, the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida is reduced by up to 75%. Please consult your physician to determine what is the right amount of Folic Acid for you.