What is a Neural Tube Defect? How to Prevent?

During the development of the brain and spinal cord of some babies, defects called neural tube defects (NTD) may occur. What causes neural tube defects, which are vital for the baby, are they diagnosed at what week of pregnancy and how can they be prevented? Let’s move on to our detailed guide we have prepared for you.

What is a neural tube defect?

The structure that starts from the brain tissue and extends along the spine is called the neural tube. Neural tube defect (NTD) refers to abnormalities that occur during the brain and spinal cord development of some babies. The most common neural tube defects are anencephaly and spina bifida.

What causes a neural tube defect?

Any part of the structure starting from the brain tissue and extending along the spine remains open during the developmental stage after the fertilization of the embryo, causing a neural tube defect. As a result of these defects, shape or function disorders may occur in some parts of the babies’ bodies. However, the cause of this is not known exactly.

Neural tube defects are thought to be caused by some genetic and environmental factors. Some of the causes and risk groups that increase the likelihood of these defects are:

  • Presence of insulin-induced diabetes mellitus in the expectant mother (Type 1),
  • The mother has a previous baby born with a neural tube defect,
  • Malnutrition and lack of folic acid in the body,
  • Mothers who have been diagnosed with obesity,
  • Using antiepileptic drugs containing sodium valproate or valproic acid,
  • Being exposed to high heat in places such as saunas and hammams or experiencing a high fever situation.

What should be the neural tube defect value?

Neural tube defect values ​​are actually related to the hormone values ​​in the screening tests. High levels of AFP hormone in triple and quadruple screening tests increase the risk of neural tube defects, while high levels of hCG increase the risk for Down Syndrome and Trisomy 18 .

When does a neural tube defect occur?

Let’s say in what week the neural tube defect becomes evident. The diagnosis of a neural tube defect is on an ultrasound scan at 12 weeks of pregnancy, or much more likely between 19 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is determined by anomaly screening performed between weeks and weeks.

Which vitamin is associated with neural tube defect?

Neural tube defect is seen in folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency. Low folic acid levels, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy, increase the risk of developing neural tube defects. For this reason, expectant mothers who are planning a pregnancy should start using folic acid supplements 3 months in advance.

When does the neural tube close?

Normally, the closure of the neural tube occurs irregularly in five different places at the same time, both in the direction of the head and tail. The opening in the head area of ​​the tube closes on the 25th day of fertilization, and the opening in the tail end is closed on the 27th day.

How is neural tube defect treated?

There is no definitive treatment method for the types of neural tube defects that mostly occur due to genetic factors. Therefore, prevention of the disease is much more important. However, it is very important to eliminate the folic acid deficiency, which has an effect on the development of these problems, and to take vitamin B12 support.

How to prevent neural tube defect?

To prevent neural tube defects, 2 out of 3 neural tube defects can be prevented by increasing folic acid intake at least one month before pregnancy and in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

It is very important to carry an adequate folate level in the first days of the developing embryo, especially in the 3rd and 4th weeks when neural tube defects appear. You can increase your folate intake by consuming folate-rich foods or taking a folic acid supplement. Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and legumes are among the foods you can consume frequently in this regard.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, you should take a vitamin supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. If you’re at high risk for neural tube defects, it’s a good idea to take 4000 micrograms of folic acid every day.

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