Spina bifida is more common among whites and Hispanics, and females are affected more often than males. Some risk factors include:
- Folate deficiency. A folate deficiency increases the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
- Obesity. Pre-pregnancy obesity is associated with an increased risk of neural tube birth defects, including spina bifida.
- Diabetes. Women with diabetes who don't control their blood sugar well have a higher risk of having a baby with spina bifida.
- Increased body temperature. Some evidence suggests that increased body temperature in the early weeks of pregnancy may increase the risk of spina bifida.
- Family history of neural tube defects. That risk increases if two previous children have been affected by the condition. In addition, a woman who was born with a neural tube defect has a greater chance of giving birth to a child with spina bifida.
- Some medications. For example, anti-seizure medications, such as valproic acid (Depakene), seem to cause neural tube defects when taken during pregnancy, possibly because they interfere with the body's ability to use folate and folic acid.
If you have known risk factors for spina bifida, talk with your doctor to determine if you need a larger dose or prescription dose of folic acid, even before a pregnancy begins.
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