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What causes neural tube defects?

The most common causes of neural tube defects are insufficient folic acid in the mother's diet, both before she became pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Several other factors may contribute to the development of neural tube defects as well, including poor nutrition, certain drugs, and exposure to chemicals or radiation. In a few families,

there also appears to be a genetic predisposition.

All pregnancies are at risk for an neural tube defect. However, women with a history of a previous pregnancy resulting in a fetus with an neural tube defect are at higher risk. So are women with a close relative (brother, sister, niece, or nephew) who has an neural tube defect, women with type 1 diabetes mellitus, women with seizure disorders being treated with valproic acid or carbamazepine, and women or their partners who themselves have an neural tube defect.

When neural tube defects occur concurrently with other malformations, there is a greater likelihood of an underlying specific genetic or environmental cause. Genetic causes include chromosome aberrations and single gene mutations. Environmental causes include maternal diabetes mellitus, exposure to prolonged hyperthermia, and taking seizure medications during the early months of pregnancy.

More information on neural tube defects

What are neural tube defects? - Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common birth defects of the brain and spinal cord that include anencephaly and spina bifida (meningomyelocele).
What causes neural tube defects? - The most common causes of neural tube defects are insufficient folic acid in the mother's diet. All pregnancies are at risk for an neural tube defect.
What're symptoms of neural tube defects? - Spina bifida is the most common type of neural tube defect. Anencephaly is a neural tube defect.
How are neural tube defects diagnosed? - At birth, the diagnosis of a neural tube defect is usually obvious based on external findings. Prenatal diagnosis may be made with ultrasound examination.
What's the treatment for neural tube defects? - No treatment is available for anencephaly. Aggressive surgical and medical management has improved survival and function of infants with spina bifida.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005