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Spina bifida occurs when the spine does not close properly during the first month of pregnancy. In severe cases, the spinal cord protrudes through the child's back and may be covered by skin or a thin membrane. Surgery to close a newborn's back is generally performed within 24 hours after birth to minimize the risk of infection and to preserve existing function in the spinal cord.

Many things can affect a pregnancy, including family genes and things women may come in contact with during pregnancy. However, recent studies have shown that folic acid is one factor that may reduce the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida.

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