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Can neural tube defects be prevented?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Experts think consuming adequate amounts of the B vitamin known as folic acid when you're pregnant can help prevent neural tube defects in a child. Because the neural tube develops during the first month of pregnancy, it is important for potential mothers to ensure they are getting enough folic acid even before they become pregnant. The recommended daily amount is at least 400 micrograms, but more may be needed if certain risk factors are present, such as if the mother has a neural tube defect or has had children with neural tube defects. Folic acid is available as a vitamin supplement, and it is also present in lower levels in certain kinds of food, such as eggs, citrus fruit, beans, green vegetables, and enriched cereal and bread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges women to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant, to help prevent neural tube defects.

Neural tube defects happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before you find out you're pregnant. By the time you realize you’re pregnant, it might be too late to prevent those birth defects. Also, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.

These are two reasons why it is important for all women who can get pregnant to be sure to get enough folic acid every day, even if they aren’t planning a pregnancy any time soon.

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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.