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How Spina Bifida and Myelomeningocele may affect your bladder

Spina Bifida is a collective name that refers to any birth defect involving incomplete closure of the neural tube. This congenital malformation occurs during the first month of pregnancy. The most common type of Spina Bifida is Myelomeningocele, a neural tube defect in which the bones of the spine do not completely form. This causes the spinal cord and its tissues to bulge and stick out of the child's back.

Dysfunctions in the spinal cord itself and the nerve roots can also occur. This defective closure can arise anywhere along the spine, from the neck to the rump bone and tail bones, but is most often found in the loin area. Enclosure of the Spina Bifida is performed as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours of birth.
spina bifida full width users hand on wheel of wheelchair

Effects on your bladder

Nerve functionality of the bladder is disturbed in 90% of Spina Bifida cases, because neural impulses cannot reach their destination in a normal way. The impaired signals also lead to muscular deficiency with paralysis and reduced mobility, numbness, poor circulation in the legs and a higher risk of bone fracture. Many people become confined to wheelchairs and can develop dislocated hip joints and misaligned legs and back.

If the spinal cord damage is partial, you experience a certain loss of the ability to control your muscles, but some signals will still go through. This allows for the possibility of intermittent self catheterisation (ISC) for emptying the bladder, which can be a good solution for a longer, healthier and more independent life.

US based Spina Bifida Association is focused on serving children and adults who live with SB. The website offers resources, educational material, information on prevention and ways to get involved.

Evie Toombes Para Rider and Wellspect Ambassador
Evie is a 15yr old, grade 3 para showjumper and lives with lipomyelomeningocele - a form of Spina Bifida. Her condition causes leg weakness and bladder & bowel problems, but uses horses as her therapy and is aiming for a future featuring Paralympic competition. Follow her story here.