CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

Neural Tube Defect: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Learn what it is, when it's detected and how to help prevent it.
ByAshley S. Roman, MD, OB-GYN|Updated April 20, 2017
save article
pregnant woman hands on belly indoors
Image: Getty Images

A neural tube defect is when baby’s spine or skull isn’t formed properly, or when the spinal cord or part of the brain develops outside the body. Spina bifida is one type of neural tube defect.

Every pregnancy is screened for neural tube defects, usually around the 20th week, either with a blood test or an ultrasound, so the defects are likely to be identified then.

Taking folic acid in the weeks before and after conception is the only thing that’s been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. It is commonly recommended to take a supplement of about 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

close up of pregnant woman holding ultrasound picture
What to Know About Fetal Development in the Third Trimester
By Nehal Aggarwal
close up of woman's pregnant belly in the sunlight at home
Is It Safe to Smoke Marijuana While Pregnant?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman eating a salad at home
Dad’s Genes Are the Reason for Unborn Baby’s Insatiable Appetite
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman looking at pregnancy trimester calendar
Stages of Pregnancy: When Does Each Trimester Start and End?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
overhead view of pregnant woman sitting on bed holding belly
This Is How Hard Your Baby Is Kicking, According to Science
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman looking at ultrasound photo of baby
Watch How Your Organs Make Room for Baby
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
family about to pop their gender reveal balloon
It’s Not 50-50: Why Your Chances of Having a Boy Are Slightly Higher
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
close up of pregnant woman wearing a floral dress outside in the summertime
How Super Antibodies From Mom Protect Baby and May Help Treat Disease
By Wyndi Kappes
close up of pregnant woman talking to her doctor about ultrasound results
What to Know About Congenital Heart Disease in Babies
By Elizabeth Narins
Cannabis Use During Pregnancy May Affect Child Development, Study Says
Cannabis Use During Pregnancy May Affect Child Development, Study Says
By Nehal Aggarwal
ADVERTISEMENT
mother in hospital after just giving birth newborn
What Does the Placenta Do?
By Korin Miller
backpack spilling open with supplies
5 Ways to Make Baby Smarter Before Birth
By Celia Shatzman
pregnant woman looking at her sonogram
This Common Pregnancy Condition Could Up Baby’s Risk of Autism or ADHD
By Ashley Edwards Walker
ADVERTISEMENT
sonogram machine at doctor's office
Mom-to-Be’s Hilarious ‘Demon’ Baby Sonogram Goes Viral
By Laurie Ulster
smiling pregnant woman in urban setting
This Is How Mom’s and Baby’s Cells Communicate During Pregnancy
By Stephanie Grassullo
pregnant woman holding her sonogram
Study: Industrial Chemicals Pass From Mother to Fetus Throughout Pregnancy
By Stephanie Grassullo
pregnant woman in floral dress touching her belly
Why Your Baby Is Really Kicking in the Womb, According to New Research
By Stephanie Grassullo
ADVERTISEMENT
fruits and veggies representing different weeks of pregnancy
How Big Is Baby: Fruit & Veggie Edition
By Darcy Strobel
woman holding photo of ultrasound while sitting on couch at home
Research Shows Why Babies Need to Move in the Womb
By Anisa Arsenault
underwater bubble formations
What Is the Amniotic Sac?
By Erin Walters
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List