Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spine, and has been found to have some hereditary component. Learn about the research on whether or not Spina Bifida runs in families, and how to reduce the risk of passing it on from one generation to another.
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is a birth defect that involves an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. It results in problems with movement, sensation or both, and is usually accompanied by other congenital malformations such as hydrocephalus, clubfoot, and cleft palate. Though there is no known single cause for Spina Bifida, some research has found that genetics may play a role in its heritability.
Is There a Risk of Hereditary Spina Bifida?
Studies have found that Spina Bifida may be hereditary in some families. There is evidence to suggest that close relatives of women with a child affected by Spina Bifida have an increased risk of having a child affected by the condition. It’s important to note, however, that the exact heritability of Spina Bifida remains unknown and more research is needed in this area.
What Are Genetic Mutations Associated with Spina Bifida?
Genetic mutations can play a role in the development of Spina Bifida. Mutations have been identified in several genes related to neural tube closure and vitamin metabolism which are thought to be linked to Spina Bifida risk. The most commonly associated genetic mutation is MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase), which impairs folate metabolism, leading to an increased risk of Spina Bifida.
Can I Reduce the Risk of Having a Child With Spina Bifida?
Studies have shown that there are certain actions which can reduce the risk of having a child with Spina Bifida. Forms of folate-rich foods, such as certain green leafy vegetables and fortified grain products, can increase folate levels before and during pregnancy. Additionally, taking folic acid supplements prior to conception and during early pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of having a baby with Spina Bifida.
What Should I Do if I’m Struggling with My Family History of Spina Bifida?
If you have a family history of Spina Bifida, it can be difficult to process, and you should seek out help if needed. Talking to a health professional about your individual situation and concerns is recommended. Additionally, support groups can provide understanding, resources, and tips from others who are in similar situations.