Within the first
four weeks of pregnancy, the embryo forms and closes a
neural tube. This tube becomes the spine and brain of
the developing child. If the tube doesn’t close
correctly, the baby is said to have a neural tube defect
There are two
main types of NTD – spina bifida, where the spinal cord
isn’t closed properly, and anencephaly, where the brain
isn’t closed off. Spina bifida children are paralysed to
varying degrees and usually have learning difficulties
as well; anencephaly children die during pregnancy or
NTDs can be
tested for at about 16 – 18 weeks of pregnancy, and they
catch most cases if they use ultrasound and the triple
Who has NTD
NTD babies can happen to anyone – 95% of cases are in
families without a previous history of NTDs.
are some factors that make it more likely for the woman
to conceive a NTD baby:
- Having had a
NTD baby in a previous pregnancy makes it twenty times
more likely subsequent children will have one, too
- Being obese –
as defined by a doctor, not just being overweight
high body temperatures in early pregnancy. This could
be due to a fever or sitting in a hot spa or sauna
(not recommended for pregnant women anyway.)
- Taking some
anti-seizure drugs. If you are epilectic or require
these drugs for other reasons, discuss whether you
need to change medication before getting pregnant.
insulin dependant diabetes
people have a higher rate of NTD
As NTDs develop
in the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy, they often
happen before the woman is even aware of being pregnant
so prevention needs to occur before pregnancy.
anything that takes you out of the risk groups listed
above will cut down the chances of having a NTD baby.
means of reducing the risk, however, is by simply taking
400 micrograms of folate (or folic acid.)
Daily doses of
folic acid in the month before conception and for at
least three months after conception reduce the risk of
NTD by 70%. That means, that for every 10 children who
would have developed a NTD, 7 of them can be prevented
about half of all pregnancies are unplanned and that
folate is needed so early in pregnancy, it is important
that women who may become pregnant take folate daily.
Research is also showing other health benefits from
taking folate daily so it is in everyone’s interests for
this to happen.
only about one third of women are getting enough folate
in their diets. Many foods are now fortified with
folate; some cereals actually have the daily
requirements in each serve.
Mother of two, Melbourne writer, Tash
Hughes writes articles on health and family issues for
ezines, websites and magazines. Tash also owns
Word Constructions to help business owners have a
professional presentation on paper and on the internet.
For all your business writing needs, contact
Word Constructions then get on with business.