Must-Read Information for Expectant Parents of Children with Spina Bifida

Michelle Hopkins

Are you expecting a child that has the birth defect spina bifida? If so, you are likely a nervous parent-to-be. You may have numerous questions about your child's future and have likely been told that many of the answers you desire will have to wait until your child is born. This is because spina bifida affects children to varying degrees. For example, some children may have many health problems, and others may not.


The mothers of children with spina bifida are generally advised to have c-sections because vaginal deliveries can put the delicate spines of their babies at risk of trauma and damage. These surgeries are performed by OB/GYNs. Depending on the severity of your child's spina bifida, they may have to have spinal surgery performed by a pediatric neurologist. This is determined soon after birth. Surgery is required if the spinal bones protrude out of the skin. Some children require an additional surgical procedure involving the placement of VP shunts to protect their brains from getting damaged by hydrocephalus. 

Developmental Delays

Your child may have some developmental delays. For example, if your child needs to have back surgery, they might sit up, crawl, or walk later than other babies. It is important to note that sometimes doctors cannot determine whether or not children with spina bifida will need mobility aids until they do not reach certain milestones. Some children with VP shunts may have math delays. A neurologist is a good resource to use to determine what types of delays your child may experience. Doctors can determine potential delays based on the area of the spine that was affected by the spina bifida. 


If your child's spina bifida occurs in the area of the spine that controls bowel and bladder function, they might be incontinent. This means that at some point in life they will need to catheterize or get help using catheters to urinate. Some children have total incontinence, which means that they may have to use colostomy bags to remove stool. There is also a surgical procedure that can be used to ensure independence. If your child undergoes the surgery, they will perform a procedure daily that uses clean water to remove stool from their colon. 

Since spina bifida affects neurological function, your child will likely need to routinely see a neurologist throughout their life. They may need to see a neurologist beyond their routine appointments if there is an emergency issue. For example, some children with shunts require a shunt-revision procedure at some point in their lives. This is a surgical procedure that involves replacing the existing shunt with a new one to keep cerebral fluid from causing pressure in the brain. 

Visit sites such as to find neurology clinics near you.