What is the diagnosis for Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida can be diagnosed during pregnancy or after the baby is born. Spina bifida occulta might not be diagnosed until late childhood or adulthood, or might never be diagnosed.
During pregnancy there are screening tests (prenatal tests) to check for spina bifida and other birth defects. Talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about this prenatal testing.
- AFP - AFP stands for alpha-fetoprotein (sounds like: al-fa–fee-toe-pro-teen), a protein the unborn baby produces. This is a simple blood test that measures how much AFP has passed into the mother’s bloodstream from the baby. A high level of AFP might mean that the baby has spina bifida. An AFP test might be part of a test called the “triple screen” that looks for neural tube defects and other issues.
- Ultrasound - An ultrasound is a type of picture of the baby. In some cases, the doctor can see if the baby has spina bifida or find other reasons that there might be a high level of AFP. Frequently, spina bifida can be seen with this test.
- Amniocentesis (sounds like: am-knee-oh-sin-te-sus; hear how “amniocentesis” sounds) - For this test, the doctor takes a small sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby in the womb. Higher than average levels of AFP in the fluid might mean that the baby has spina bifida.
After the Baby Is Born
In some cases, spina bifida might not be diagnosed until after the baby is born.
Sometimes there is a hairy patch of skin or dimple on the baby’s back that is first seen after the baby is born. A doctor can use an image scan, such as an, X-ray, MRI, or CT, to get a clearer view of the baby’s spine and the bones in the back.
Sometimes spina bifida is not diagnosed until after the baby is born because the mother did not receive prenatal care or an ultrasound did not show clear pictures of the affected part of the spine.