Neural tube defects
Neural tube defects NTDs are birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord. They happen during the first month of pregnancy even before a woman knows she is pregnant. A baby’s neural tube normally develops into the brain and spinal cord. It starts out as a tiny , flat ribbon that develops into a tube by the end of the first month of pregnancy. With this condition, the tube doesn’t close completely causing serious problems for the baby, including death.
It is therefore important for women of childbearing age to take 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday before and during pregnancy. This will reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development.
Some neural tube defects
Spina bifida : This is the most common neural tube defect. This condition occurs when the bones of the vertebrae do not close completely. As a result, part of the spinal cord pokes through the spine.
This condition can sometimes be treated with surgery before or after the child is born. However, these children may have paralyzed legs and problem with bladder and bowel control. The milder forms cause fewer problems.
Anencephaly : This is the most severe form of neural tube defects. Babies affected by this condition have missing major parts of the brain, skull and scalp. They usually survive only a few hours after birth.
This type occurs when the upper part of the neural tube that forms the brain does not close properly. Babies with this type of birth defect are at high risk of other birth defects of the face and head and other body parts. Girls are at higher risk than boys.
Encephalocele : This is a rare type. In this case, a sac that contains the membranes that cover the brain pokes through an opening in the skull. Other parts of the brain may poke too. Babies with this type generally need surgery to place parts of the brain back inside the skull and close the opening. Some babies may also have fluid build in the brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus . About 20% of these babies are stillborn. Those who survive have lasting disabilities.
What causes neural tube defects ?
The exact cause is unknown. It is however believed that genetics and environmental factors such as air pollution, cigarette smoke and lead may play a role.
Who is at risk of having a baby with neural tube defects ?
Anyone can have a baby with neural tube defects however certain people are at higher risk than others. These include the following :
- couple with a family history of neural tube defects
- women who are obese
- women who have uncontrolled diabetes
- women who take certain anti seizure medications
How can neural tube defects be prevented in your baby ?
Taking folic acid can help prevent this condition. It is crucial to have enough folic acid in your system before and during pregnancy, before the neural tube closes.
The March of Dimes recommends that all women of child-bearing age take multivitamins with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before pregnancy and during early pregnancy. You can take up to 1,000 micrograms each day. Do not take more than 1,000 micrograms unless you talk to your health care provider first.
You need folic acid during pregnancy too . You can get this from your prenatal vitamins which contains at least 600 micrograms of folic acid. You need to take your prenatal vitamins daily .
If you’ve already had a baby with neural tube defects, you may need more folic acid. Discuss it with your health care professional. He will let you know how much folic acid you need to take.
Neural tuve defects. National library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/neuraltubedefects.html. Accessed January 11, 2016
Neural tube defects like spina bifida declining. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20150115/neural-tube-defects-such-as-spina-bifida-on-the-decline-cdc. Accessed January 11, 2016