Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida Birth Defect Linked to Epilepsy Drug

Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect that occurs when the covering of the spinal cord fails to form properly during embryonic development. The two sides of the spine should fuse together during the first month of a normal pregnancy, but this birth defect prevents normal fusion. When the two sides of the spine do not fuse properly, the birth defect creates an opening in the back.

Spina Bifida Causes

While no one knows the exact cause of spina bifida, researchers have several theories about what causes the birth defect. Some scientists believe that genetic factors affect the risk of developing spina bifida, while others theorize that environmental factors play a role.

The epilepsy drug Depakote may also have a connection to spina bifida. This drug contains valproic acid, which inhibits the absorption of folic acid. Folic acid helps the brain and spine develop properly and also plays a role in the closure of the two sides of the spine. If a woman takes a medication containing valproic acid during her pregnancy, it could inhibit folic absorption enough to cause spina bifida or another birth defect in her baby.

Spina Bifida Types

Medical professionals classify each case of spina bifida as one of three types:

  • Spina bifida occulta
  • Meningocele
  • Myelomeningocele

Spina bifida occulta causes the fewest health problems and is the mildest form of this birth defect. Meningocele refers to a type of spina bifida that causes the protective membrane of the spinal cord to push through the opening caused by the defect in the spinal column. This form of the birth defect causes the formation of a sac called a meningocele.

The most severe form of spina bifida, myelomeningocele, occurs when the spinal cord and its protective covering push through the opening in the back. Many children born with this form of the birth defect develop a condition called hydrocephalus, which causes fluid to build up in the brain. Children with myelomeningocele usually develop paralysis of varying degrees.

Birth Defect Costs

The Spina Bifida Association of America estimates that it costs $532,000 to care for a child born with spina bifida. In some cases, the total cost exceeds $1 million per child. The SBAA also reports that medical and surgical costs for children with this birth defect exceed $200 million per year in the United States.

If you took Depakote during pregnancy and gave birth to a child with spina bifida, contact one of Chaffin Luhana LLP’s Depakote lawyers at 1-888-480-1123 immediately. You may be entitled to compensation to help defray the costs of caring for a child with a birth defect.