Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Parents
Spina bifida occulta is when a baby’s backbone (spine) does not fully form during pregnancy. The baby is born with a small gap in the bones of the spine.
Spina bifida occulta is common and happens in about 1 out of 10 people. Usually, spina bifida occulta causes no health problems.
Most people with spina bifida occulta (SPY-nuh BIF-ih-duh uh-KUL-tuh) do not even know they have it. They may have a dimple, patch of hair, or a red mark at the base of the spine.
Some people with spina bifida occulta also have a tethered cord. A tethered cord is a spinal cord that can’t move freely inside the spinal canal. Sometimes a tethered cord needs to be released with surgery. Otherwise, it can stretch (especially during a growth spurt) and lead to pain, trouble walking, and loss of bladder (pee) control.
Other kinds of spina bifida include:
All types of spina bifida happen in the first month of pregnancy. At first, a fetus’ spinal cord is flat. It then closes into a tube called a neural tube. If this tube does not fully close, the baby is born with spina bifida. In spina bifida occulta, the spinal cord and its covering stay in their normal position inside the spinal canal.
Doctors don’t know exactly why some babies get spina bifida occulta. A woman may be more likely to have a baby with spina bifida occulta if she:
Not getting enough of the vitamin folic acid early in pregnancy is linked to meningocele and myelomeningocele, but not spina bifida occulta.
Spina bifida occulta usually doesn’t cause symptoms. So, it’s often found when an X-ray or other imaging study of the spine is done for a different reason.
Sometimes spina bifida is diagnosed with an ultrasound after a doctor sees a dimple, patch of hair, or red patch at the base of a baby’s spine.
Most people with spina bifida occulta do not need medical treatment. Those with a tethered cord might have surgery to let the spinal cord move more freely.
Most babies born with spina bifida occulta go on live a normal, active life. Help your child get any needed medical care.
Myelomeningocele is a type of spina bifida in which a baby is born with a gap in the bones of the spine.
What teachers should know about spina bifida, and how to help students with the birth defect do their best in school.
Our week-by-week illustrated pregnancy calendar is a detailed guide to all the changes taking place in your baby – and in you!
One of the most important things you can do to help prevent serious birth defects in your baby is to get enough folic acid every day – especially before conception and during early pregnancy.
To eat well during pregnancy, your extra calories should come from nutritious foods that contribute to your baby’s growth and development.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.