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What are Neural Tube Defects?

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are birth defects of the brain (anencephaly) and spinal cord (spina bifida). The neural tube develops in the first four to six weeks of pregnancy, usually before a woman knows she is pregnant. This is an important time of pregnancy. This is when formation and closure of the neural tube happens, which later becomes the spinal cord and brain. An NTD happens when the neural tube does not close properly.

In spina bifida, the baby’s spinal column does not close completely.

  • Spinal cord nerves are damaged. This can cause some paralysis.
  • Many babies will go on to need braces, crutches or wheelchairs.
  • In some babies born with spina bifida the problems are severe enough to cause death.

In anencephaly, the brain does not develop.

  • It is a more serious neural tube defect. Much of the brain does not develop.
  • Effects of anencephaly include learning difficulties related to increased pressure in the brain, or hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain.
  • Many anencephalic babies are either stillborn or die shortly after birth.

Research has shown that getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy can prevent most neural tube defects. Up to 70% of neural tube defects (NTDs) can be prevented among women who consume the recommended daily amount of 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy.


Quality of Life
When a child is born with a birth defect, a family’s life is changed forever.  For stories, facts and a peek into life of spina bifida, see the web pages below for heart warming stories.

Spina Bifida picture Spina Bifida pictureSpina Bifida picture
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