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CDC is committed to learning more about prevalence, identifying risk factors, conducting prevention education, and helping people affected by spina bifida live to the fullest.

Estimating the Prevalence of Spina Bifida

Through population-based birth defects surveillance programs, CDC tracks the number of pregnancies affected by spina bifida in the United States. This way, we can find out if the number is rising, dropping, or staying the same. We can also compare the prevalence related to where people live and by other factors. This information can help us look for risk factors and causes.

Understanding Risk Factors and Causes

Understanding the risk factors for spina bifida will help us learn more about the causes and ways to prevent births affected by spina bifida. CDC is currently funding and working one of the largest population-based U.S. study looking at potential risk factors and causes of birth defects, called the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS).

NBDPS will help us learn:

  • How a woman's nutrition and the way her body uses folic acid might affect her risk for having a baby affected by birth defects, including spina bifida, other neural tube defects, and heart defects.
  • Why Hispanics have higher rates of neural tube defect-affected pregnancies, and whether folic acid is as effective at preventing them among Hispanics as it is among other groups.

Helping People with Spina Bifida Live to the Fullest

CDC is committed to helping people affected by spina bifida live life to their fullest potential. Since 2003, the National Spina Bifida Program has created many programs and resources to help people affected by spina bifida. Working closely with the Spina Bifida Association, we focus on improving physical and mental health, increasing independence, and increasing social participation for people with spina bifida throughout their lives.

Projects include learning what life is like growing up with spina bifida so that we can better meet the needs of children with spina bifida and their families; supporting a clinical care network to improve health care of people with spina bifida and create a patient registry; and creating a transition resource with tips for people with spina bifida and their families to help work towards independence.

Promoting Folic Acid Use

CDC works to promote the use of folic acid among women of childbearing age, to help lower their risk of having a pregnancy affected by spina bifida. We create and disseminate user-friendly and effective educational materials in English and Spanish. This includes leading formative research efforts to identify materials and messages unique to Spanish-speakers that would be most effective in raising awareness and increasing folic acid use. In addition, CDC maintains a website to deliver current and accurate information and tools. Although CDC is aware that folic acid does not prevent all spina bifida (or all birth defects of the spine), it's a step that women can take toward having a healthy pregnancy.

Learn More

To learn more about the projects described here, visit our Research page.


If you have questions about spina bifida, please send us an e-mail at