What is the prognosis for anencephaly?

Deborah Mulligan
Deborah Mulligan on behalf of MDLIVE
Anencephaly occurs when the "cephalic" or head end of the neural tube fails to close, resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp. Anencephaly is invariably associated with death as a stillbirth, a neonatal death, or occasionally a post-neonatal death.

A health care provider usually detects this condition during routine prenatal testing and ultrasound. Otherwise, it is recognized at birth.  If anencephaly is detected before birth, further counseling will be needed.

The risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect is dramatically reduced if a woman takes the recommended dose of folic acid before becoming pregnant and during the first few months of pregnancy. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can be found in enriched grain products and vitamin supplements.  The American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical organizations recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.  Women who have had previous children with a neural tube defect may be advised to take a higher dose before future pregnancies.  

The prognosis for babies born with anencephaly is extremely poor. If the infant is not stillborn, he or she will usually die within a few hours or days after birth.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Birth Defects

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ng vitamins with folic acid before conception and avoiding known contaminants such as smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.