Spina bifida

Spina Bifida is also known as a Neural Tube Defect which affects the Central Nervous System. (the brain and spinal cord)

Spina Bifida is when a baby’s spine and spinal cord does not develop properly in the womb normally in the first four weeks of pregnancy and causes a gap in the spine.

Types of open Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida can range from mild to severe depending on the type, size, location of the defect.


This is the most common and severe defect. The spinal cord and its protective covering protrude (push out) from an opening in the spine.

There are a number of problems that can occur due to nerve damage and can vary greatly.

Babies often have issues with bladder and bowel control.

In serious cases babies may have paralysis and mobility problems.


This defect causes the protective membrane around the spinal cord to protrude (push out) from the opening in the spine but usually no involvement of the spinal cord.

Development of the spinal cord may be affected but impairment is usually less severe than a myelomeningocele.

Picture of Spina Bifida

Spina biff.png

What Happens next?

You can discuss the scan findings with the Fetal Medicine Midwife or appropriately trained professional. Understandably you will be anxious and have many questions, but it may not be possible to give you all of the answers today due to the complex nature of the defect.

A referral to Fetal Medicine Clinic will be made and an appointment provided for a further scan and detailed discussion with the Consultant Obstetrician.


In Fetal Medicine Clinic a referral can be made to the specialist tertiary centre at the Fetal Medicine Unit, St Michaels Hospital in Bristol for further information and a plan of care. The consultant will discuss the condition and all options including ending the pregnancy.

Whatever your decision we will respect and support you.

If you choose to continue your pregnancy a second referral will be made for you to attend the Fetal Medicine Unit in University Hospital of Wales.

UHW, Cardiff is the closest Paediatric Surgical Unit so is the place you will deliver as baby will possibly need an operation to close the defect.

You will have an opportunity to meet the Paediatric Surgeon and neonatal team who will care for you and your baby.


Please contact the Fetal Medicine Midwife if you have any questions on the numbers below:

Contact Numbers

Royal Gwent Hospital 01633 234747

Nevill Hall Hospital 01873 732390 or 01873 732391

Bristol Fetal Medicine Unit 0117 3425470 website: University Hospital Bristol Fetal Medicine unit 

Cardiff Fetal Medicine Unit 02920 742279

Useful Websites

SHINE (Spina Bifida Support Group) Tel:  01733 555988

Website: https://www.shinecharity.org.uk/

NHS Website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spina-bifida/

ARC (Antenatal Results and Choices) - Offer information and support to parents who are making decisions before, during and after tests in pregnancy

Tel no: 084507722990

Website: https://www.arc-uk.org/

Email: info@arc-uk-org

Improving the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of expectant mothers, infants, children and young people throughout Aneurin Bevan University Health Board Area.

(N.B: The Family and Therapies team at ABUHB is NOT responsible for the content on the webpage links that we refer to in our resource sections and linked information to external sites. All information was accurate and appropriate at the time the webpage was created.)

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