Diagnosing spina bifida

Most cases of spina bifida (myelomeningocele) are detected during routine ultrasound scans carried out during antenatal appointments.

Spina bifida may be diagnosed during the ultrasound scan carried out around week 12 of the pregnancy or, more likely, during the anomaly scan carried out around weeks 18 to 21. 

Read more about antenatal appointments and checks and screening tests you may be offered during pregnancy.

Ultrasound scans

An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of your body. It is an entirely safe procedure.

Most hospitals offer women at least two ultrasound scans during their pregnancy. The first is usually at around eight to 14 weeks and may be able to detect problems with your baby’s spine that could indicate spina bifida if the condition is severe.

Read more about ultrasound scans.

The second ultrasound scan is known as an anomaly scan and is carried out around weeks 18 to 21 of your pregnancy. This scan aims to identify any physical problems with your baby. It is usually during this scan that spina bifida is diagnosed.

If tests confirm your baby has spina bifida, the implications should be fully discussed with you.


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