The chance that a pregnancy will be affected by a neural tube defect is less than one in 1000. However, there are a number of factors that will increase this risk. The main one is a close family history of neural tube defects.
Neural tube defects include spina bifida, anencephaly, occult spinal dysraphism and encephalocele. It does not matter whether the close family history is on the mother’s or father’s side.
There is more chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect if you have already had a baby with a neural tube defect, you or your partner have a close relative born with a neural tube defect, you have insulin dependent diabetes (not gestational diabetes), you are obese, or you take certain anti-epileptic medications, especially those containing sodium valproate or valproic acid.
About two-thirds of neural tube defects can be prevented if you eat enough folate (folic acid) before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Neural tube defects may be diagnosed during the ultrasound scan that is carried out around week 12 of the pregnancy or, more likely, during the anomaly scan that is carried out around weeks 19 to 20.
The neural tube
During the first month of life, an embryo (developing baby) grows a primitive tissue structure called the ‘neural tube’. As the embryo develops, the neural tube begins to change into a more complicated structure of bones, tissue and nerves that will eventually form the spine and nervous system.
However, in cases of spina bifida, something goes wrong with the development of the neural tube and the spinal column (the ridge of bone that surrounds and protects the nerves) does not fully close. Spina bifida is a Latin term that means ‘split spine’.
Source: pregnancybirth & baby
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