What are neural tube defects?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Neural tube defects are birth defects that affect the early fetal development of a baby's spinal cord and brain. They usually occur during the first month of the mother's pregnancy. There are several different types of neural tube defects, but the most common are spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida is caused by the improper fetal development of the spinal column and spinal cord. Anencephaly is caused by a lack of proper fetal brain development.

Neural tube defects are serious birth defects of the brain and spine. They are a major cause of death and lifelong disability worldwide. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida (defect of the spine) and anencephaly (defect of the brain). They happen very early in pregnancy when the neural tube, which becomes the brain and the spine, does not close properly. Spina bifida can cause lifelong disabilities that range from mild to severe. Almost all babies born with anencephaly will die shortly after birth. In the United States, 3,000 pregnancies are affected by neural tube defects every year.

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