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Reducing the risk of spina bifida

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TWC News: Reducing the risk of spina bifida
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If you are planning on getting pregnant, there are certain vitamins to take that can make a big difference in your baby’s health.

"I started taking folic acid long before I considered getting pregnant," said patient Barbara Devore.

Folic acid is a vitamin proven to drastically reduce the number of babies born with spina bifida. Barbara Devore wasn't as fortunate--she was born with spina bifida. A strong causal factor may be the lack of folic acid her mom took while she was pregnant with her. She's been in a wheel chair her entire life.

"My legs are very, very weak. I can stand up but I can't walk,” said Devore.

Spina bifida is a birth defect where the spinal cord is not in its proper place, and in many cases, the baby is born with the spinal cord outside the body.

"There is no skin, muscle covering. It's called an open defect. It requires immediate repair within the first 24 hours of life," said Dr. Matthew Adamo, Pediatric Neurosurgeon.

The other type of spina bifida, called occulta, is when the cord stays within the body, but not in the right place. If the spinal cord is affected, it's described as a 'lesion' and the higher the lesion is on the spinal cord, the more severe symptoms can be.

"With the lower lesions, children have better leg control, higher lesions they have legs and bowel and bladder effected and higher incidence of hydro-encephalitis, problems with fluid absorption in brain,” said Adamo.

Barbara Devore has lower body impairment, but she lives an active life.

“I am married, enjoy kayaking. I work out,” said Devore.

Pregnant women can reduce the risk of having a baby with spina bifida by 75 percent simply by taking a folic acid supplement.

In addition to taking a supplement with folic acid, it can be found in many foods, such as spinach, kale, collard greens and meat.

"If you are a woman of child bearing age, you should take folic acid," said Devore.

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