The cost of raising a child with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal cord, poses a serious question to the parent(s). Will I be able to provide, and pay for all of my child’s special needs? Prenatal care including tests, ultra sounds, surgeries for the birth, and repair of the cyst on the infants spinal cord, along with placing a shunting device in the infants head are costs incurred before the baby is brought home. Health problems, learning disabilities, physical therapy, paralysis and regular visits to specialists, are more problems a child with special needs must further endure, adding additional financial strain to the parent. The monumental costs to raising a child with special needs progressively increase every year as the child grows; however, cost should not be the key factor in determining whether or not a parent can rear a child.
A fetus diagnosed with Spina Bifida, while still in the mother’s womb, is considered a high-risk pregnancy. A blood test is given to the mother to determine the amount of protein called AFP in her bloodstream. High amounts of this protein will turn out a positive screening test, which usually means there is a defect in the fetus. Specialists must then monitor the infant through monthly, physical exams, therefore, increasing the cost of the pregnancy.
If the defect is not found during the blood testing process, then it is usually found through an ultrasound, an instrument used to view the fetus, by taking pictures inside the womb. These pictures are usually taken during the twentieth week of the pregnancy, followed by several more (at least two) as the pregnancy progresses before the actual birth. These photos can determine brain abnormalities, the amount of damage to the vertebrae, and how high on the spinal cord the defect occurs. The cost of pregnancy with a defected fetus is nearly quadrupled compared to the cost of a regular or normal pregnancy.
The birth of the child incurs many additional charges. The infant must be birthed via caesarian section, rather than through the birth canal. This is considered surgery for the mother. Monitors on mother and child, drugs, surgeons, assisted specialists, and nurses all increase the cost of the birth. Once the child is born, he or she must immediately be prepped for surgery to close and repair the opening on the back. The infant is then placed in prenatal intensive care awaiting the time (approximately two or three weeks) for another surgical procedure.
In addition to the lesion on the spinal cord, there are abnormalities in the structure of certain parts of the brain which develop before birth. Fluid or water on the brain is called hydrocephalus. Placing a shunting device in the infant’s skull, to drain fluid on the brain into the abdominal cavity, controls the pressure on the brain. This prevents the condition from worsening. Alteration’s to shunt as the child grows, further incurs additional costs.
The routine of purchasing clothes, shoes, food, transportation, and housing are compounded, when issues relating to learning disabilities, paralysis, and physical therapy are added to the cost of raising a child. The child will need to see numerous physicians for follow up care for all of the potential areas defected. Learning disabilities, bladder incontinence, and paralysis are the most common problems with Spina Bifida. Depending on how much damage occurs to the spinal cord, will determine the areas needed to be treated. Common, are regular visits to the pediatrician.
They are mandatory for shots, and recording the growth of the child, but there will be visits to specialists, doctor’s who specialize in specific areas of the body, every six months to exam the special needs of the child. In many instances these visits with various physicians are held in Spina Bifida clinics for convenience to the parent. The cost of treating the child never decreases, because as the child grows, so does the cost.
The cost of raising a child is expensive, and raising a child with special needs is seemingly even more so, but we must remember that there are plenty of opportunities to aide and assist these families. The cost of raising a child can be subsidized through charities, organizations, and people who volunteer their time and money to needy families.
Parents can apply for assistance; most of the time it is granted based off the household income, allowing for some support, while at the same time, relieving some of the financial burden. Insurance will also help with the cost. Some personal insurance will pay for the treatments associated with this birth defect, additionally, most children will qualify for Medicaid insurance as soon as the paperwork is processed. Some clinics are free of charge like the Shriners Hospital, requiring only an insurance card; if the parent(s) does not have insurance, then there is no charge. Organizations such as the Easter Seals, United Way, and various Spina Bifida groups and organizations can assist with the special needs of the child, helping to alleviate some of the burden’s associated with cost.
Although there are many things to consider when having a child with Spina Bifida, cost should not be the determining factor. The key decision when birthing and raising a child, who has special needs, should not be whether the parent can pay for the doctor bills, or will the child be provided for. Rather, will I be able to love my child, and take care of him or her, to the best of my ability, without letting the cost related to Spina Bifida affect my judgement on rearing my child.