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.
profile picture of Ashley S. Roman, MD
ByAshley S. Roman, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
Apr 2017
pregnant woman hands on belly indoors
Photo: 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.

Related Video

Watch How Your Organs Make Room for Baby

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
02/24/2017

Congenital Heart Defects

Jennifer L.W. Fink
Registered Nurse

Why Your Baby Is Really Kicking in the Womb, According to New Research

Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
11/30/2018

New Study Confirms Newborns Are Super Smart

Ashley Edwards Walker
Contributing Writer
Published
12/13/2017

Study: Industrial Chemicals Pass From Mother to Fetus Throughout Pregnancy

Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
01/31/2019
Advertisement