Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spine and spinal cord. It can range greatly in severity. Minor cases of spina bifida can include an infant with a hairy patch or birthmark over the spine. Severe cases involve an area of the spinal cord being exposed, which often results in paralysis and hydrocephalus (fluid build up in the skull that puts pressure on the brain).
While many cases of spina bifida are caused by unknown factors, there are some known risk factors, including:
- Genetic factors (mothers with spina bifida, diabetes and obesity may be more likely to have a child with spina bifida);
- Certain medications and exposure to certain chemicals by the mother during pregnancy;
- Low levels of folic acid in the mother before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy.
While a child with a mild form of spina bifida may experience no symptoms, a child with a more severe form may require numerous treatments and therapies. Prenatal surgeries can be performed by specialists and may improve the outcome for a child with spina bifida, if the condition is detected prior to birth. Surgery may also be performed after birth, but damage to the spinal cord may have occurred during the delivery and this damage cannot be repaired surgically. Children with spina bifida are often left with permanent disabilities.
Children with spina bifida may require rehabilitation therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and recreational therapy. These therapies can help children with varying levels of paralysis learn to walk, speak and conduct activities of daily living by working with children to develop strength and posture, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Physiotherapy may be required throughout the lives of those affected by spina bifida to help maintain mobility and to relieve discomfort.
Children with spina bifida may also require mobility aides such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs. The therapy and mobility devices that your child requires may be very expensive and are often not covered by medical insurance.
If your child was born with spina bifida, you should consult an experienced spina bifida lawyer as soon as possible. If your child’s condition was preventable, or was not detected as early as it should have been by your healthcare practitioner, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Your child’s condition may cause her to need expensive treatments and devices throughout her life. A birth injury lawyer will help you to determine whether you are entitled to receive financial help to pay those costs.