What are Neural Tube Defects?

The neural tube is the embryonic structure that develops into the brain and spine.  Neural tube defects are any defects affecting the development of the brain, spinal cord or spine.

 

Research shows the risk of neural tube defects may be influenced by the mother’s diet, especially the amount of Vitamin B and Folic Acid that she consumes.  The United States Public Health Service recommends pregnant women, as well as all women of child bearing age, should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.  Vitamin B and Folic Acid are found in various places such as orange juice or pill form.  Women can also take a Multivitamin to make sure they get the Folic Acid they need.

 

The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida, which means the spine does not completely close.  Severity ranges from a child with no symptoms, to those children who experience leg paralysis and bladder problems.  Associated with spina bifida is hydrocephalus in which cerebrospinal fluid is unable to drain normally and causing the head to become enlarged.  Without treatment, mental retardation and other neurologic damage may occur.

 

Most neural tube defects can be improved with surgery; however, the best means of dealing with it is thorough prevention.  The United States Public Health System recommends that all pregnant women or women of child bearing age take the recommended daily requirement of folic acid which may reduce neural tube defects by 50 to 70 percent nationwide.

 

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