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Bringing Home Baby

Prenatal Diagnosis of Spina Bifida: No parent wants to hear that there may be something wrong with their child. If you have been told that your unborn child has spina bifida, you probably have many questions and concerns. Educating yourself about spina bifida will help you to ask the right questions, and more fully understand the diagnosis the doctor is giving you. However, it is also very important to not get so caught up in your child's disability that you forget to take care of you. Remember, you are pregnant and need to look after yourself first. Many doctors will recommend delivering a baby with spina bifida by c-section (caesarean). There are several reasons for this:

  1. Your baby may be in a breach position because of leg paralysis.

  2. Your baby may have an enlarged head due to hydrocephalus which could become caught in the birth canal.

  3. An intact myelomeningocele (sac) could rupture during a vaginal delivery, increasing the possibility of infection.

Be sure to discuss the options with your doctor, and decide on the delivery that is right for you and your baby.

What will happen after my baby is born?

When a baby with spina bifida is born, s/he is usually transferred to Alberta Children's Hospital shortly after birth where a pediatric neurosurgeon will repair the lesion. This surgery reduces the risk of further damage but cannot repair nerves that are already malformed. Without complications, the baby will usually stay in the hospital for 1-2 weeks. Approximately 85-90% will develop hydrocephalus, which will be surgically corrected with the placement of a shunt. The team of health professionals at ACH who specialise in the care of infants born with spina bifida will teach the parents about any special needs their child has before being taken home, such as catheterisation or how to spot signs of shunt malfunction. Ongoing treatment / management is usually carried out by a multidisciplinary team, including a neurosurgeon, urologist, orthopaedic surgeon, physical and occupational therapists, and other professionals as needed, possibly including an ophthalmologist, plastic surgeon, orthotist and a pediatrician or family physician to coordinate things. Treatment will include an evaluation of bladder, motor and sensory function. Parents will work closely with the ACH Myelo Clinic to meet the medical needs of their child.

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