My sister had a baby with spina bifida. What is it and how can I prevent it happening to my baby?

Spina bifida occurs where the bone covering the spinal cord doesn''t fuse together properly very early in pregnancy (before 13 weeks). This can leave the spinal cord, with its vital nerves passing down to the legs, bladder and abdomen, exposed or badly damaged. This can lead to severe disability, and if your sister had a baby with spina bifida then you will be offered a scan before 20 weeks by an ultrasound expert who will pay close attention to the backbone and brain of the baby. Occasionally a blood test carried out on you at around 16 weeks measuring alphafetoprotein may aid diagnosis depending on the policy of your hospital. The recommended way to reduce your chances of having a baby with spina bifida is to take supplements of folic acid around conception and in early pregnancy.
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