If the defect is minor, usually no treatment is necessary. If the defect is more serious, then surgery to repair it is often performed.
In cases where hydrocephalus is present, surgery is sometimes necessary to drain the cerebrospinal fluid that builds up. Normally, this fluid would flow from the brain down the spinal column before being absorbed into the bloodstream, but if the spinal cord is damaged it can't escape.
Physiotherapy helps with mobility. Regular use of a urinary catheter may be needed if there are difficulties passing urine normally. Emotional support is important, and special teaching may be necessary.
Taking a daily folic acid supplement from at least one month before conception through to the end of the 12th week of pregnancy can reduce the risk of spina bifida by up to 70 per cent.
It's recommended that women of child-bearing age take a 400mcg supplement of folic acid every day, in addition to a dietary intake of 200mcg folic acid a day.
Foods containing folic acid include:
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Baked beans
- Green leafy vegetables
- Peas and chickpeas