Neural tube defects (NTDs) are extremely dangerous birth defects that affect the central nervous, which includes the spine and brain. Neural tube birth defects generally develop during the first month of conception. The neural tube is an early embryonic structure, which develops 18 to 30 days after conceptions. Beginning as a flat plate of tissues, the neural tube then forms two ridges of tissue that fold up and fuse, forming cylinder or tube. The neural tube forms the brain and spinal cord.
Neural tube defects happen when the tube fails to close fully. Neural tube defects occur in approximately 1 in every 1,000 to 2,000 live births in the United States, or in about 1,500 to 2,000 babies each year. Children who have a Neural tube defect, an estimated 95% are born to couples with no family history of these defects.
Types of Neural Tube Defects
- Spina bifida is the most common birth defect that results from partial closure of the bones of the spine around the spinal cord. The severity of spina bifida ranges from no symptoms at all if the spinal cord does not protrude (a condition known as spina bifida occulta) to very serious neurological complications.
- Anencephaly is the second most frequent type of neural tube defects. In anencephaly, the infant is born with only a partially formed brain and spinal cord. Anencephaly can be fatal.
- Encephalocele is a severe birth defect caused by the incomplete development of the skull that allows part of the brain to stick out through the hole in the skull.
Factors That Increase Risk of NTDs
- Use of anti-seizure medications
- Race/ethnicity/geographical location
- Maternal insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus
- Previous pregnancy affected by a Neural tube defect
- Maternal hyperthermia, the exposure to high temperatures
Neural Tube Defect Detection & Prevention
Neural tube defects may be detected with prenatal tests, such as ultrasound and amniocentesis. Past research has discovered that approximately 50%or more of neural tube defects can be prevented if women consume a folic acid-containing supplement before and during the early weeks of pregnancy in addition to the folate in their diet. The US Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and American Academy of Pediatrics advise that all women of childbearing age who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. Even though the risk for neural tube defects is not entirely reduced by folic acid use.
Legal Help for Neural Tube Defects
If you or a loved one has taken prescription drugs while pregnant and given birth to a child who has been diagnosed with a neural tube defect, please fill out the form to the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified birth defect attorney or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).