Meningomyelocele, sometimes referred to as myelomeningocele or MMS, is a form of spina bifida, a birth defect (a neural tube defect) wherein the backbone, specifically the spinal canal, was not able close prior to the birth of a child. In this condition, the spinal cord and parts of it (including the meninges) project through the defect in the vertebral column.

Spina bifida generally exists in three types: meningomyelocele, meningocele, and spina bifida occulta. Meningomyelocele is the most common of the three types of spina bifida.

Spina bifida is said to occur in one out of 800 babies; with myelomeningocele occurring in one out of 5000 infants. This condition can equally occur in both males and females; and can sometimes occur in conjunction with other midline congenital anomalies during childbirth. Oftentimes, this condition occurs together with hydrocephalus.



The cause of congenital neural tube defects such as meningomyelocele is not yet exactly known. There are, however, speculations as to what could possibly be the causal factors of these conditions. Among them are:

  • Folic Acid Deficiency. Folic acid is said to play an important role the development of an embryo’s central nervous system composed of the brain and the spine. The lack of this vitamin before and during the period of pregnancy therefore means that there can be developmental problems that could cause defects to the developing embryo.
  • Genetic Factors. Meningomyelocele is also said to be partly caused by genes that are flawed. Oftentimes, having a history of this condition in the family, such as having a previous child with the same condition, makes it it more likely for you to have a child who is also affected by meningomyelocele. There are cases, nevertheless, that do not have a genetic or family connection.

There are also theories wherein researchers are pointing to exposure of the mother to viral infections during pregnancy as the cause of the condition; and there are also some mentioning that environmental exposure, such as to radiation, can also be a possibility.


Signs and Symptoms

The most obvious sign that a child is born with meningomyelocele is that there is a sac or pouch that is protruding out by the spinal column somewhere in his middle to lower back. This is often accompanied by one or more of the following: a deficiency in bladder and bowel control; lessened or absent sensation in the lower extremities; paralysis of the legs (can be partial or complete); and weakness in the lower extremities of an infant beginning at the hips.

Other indicators for this condition are:

  • Presence of other congenital conditions and/or deformities;
  • Abnormalities on the feet or legs, such as being clubfoot; and
  • Hydrocephalus (presence of excessive cerebrospinal fluid in the skull, causing it to become big).



The presence of meningomyelocele can actually be determined on the fetus during the second trimester of pregnancy. Blood tests can be conducted to ascertain the presence of congenital problems in the unborn child. In the case of meningomyelocele, the levels of alpha fetoprotein are elevated. If the blood test comes out positive, an amniocentesis and/or an ultrasound can confirm the presence of the condition.

Some women whose unborn babies are confirmed to have meningomyelocele opt to terminate the pregnancy. However, for some women who chose to carry the child to full term, the infant will need to undergo a surgical procedure that will close the defect, thus protecting the child from further injuries or infections such as meningitis.

If the child has other symptoms or defects in relation to meningomyelocele, other measures that will address the other conditions will also be applied to the child. For example, if the child also has hydrocephalus, a shunt can be inserted to drain the excess fluid from the skull; or if the child has orthopedic problems, he may be fitted to wear a brace in order to correct the defect.


Disability Tax Credits for Meningomyelocele

Meningomyelocele can hinder your child to live life to the fullest. If you are interested in providing for a better life and future for him, today might be the best time to ask your qualified health provider for a disability tax certificate. With this, your child could be entitled to a disability savings plan that can help them out for the rest of their lives. Make that choice of making life better for your child; call on a HandyTax representative to help you out now.