About Neural Tube Defects

You may be at greater risk for having a baby with Spina Bifida…

If either you or someone in your family has had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect such as spina bifida, it is important that you know that you are at greater risk for having a pregnancy affected by spina bifida.

WHO IS AT RISK?

Most babies with spina bifida were born to parents with no known family history of spina bifida. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), personal or family history of spina bifida does increase your chances of having a child with spina bifida.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • If you have had a pregnancy affected by spina bifida, you are approximately 20 times more likely than the general population to have another child with spina bifida.
  • The risk is even greater if you have had 2 or more pregnancies affected by spina bifida.
  • If you yourself have spina bifida, you are at a greater risk of having a pregnancy affected by spina bifida.
  • If you have a close relative with spina bifida, such as a sister or brother, then you are also at greater risk for a spina bifida-affected pregnancy.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If you are a woman of childbearing years and if you have a personal or family history of spina bifida, to lower your risk of having a pregnancy affected by spina bifida, you should take a higher daily dose of folic acid before you become pregnant.

The higher recommended dosage is usually 4000 mcg (4.0 mg) of folic acid every day (10 times the amount recommended for the general population.) You should only get this much folic acid through a prescription and it should be taken under a doctor’s supervision. It is important that you do not try to get more folic acid by taking more multivitamins – high levels of some of the other vitamins can be harmful!

Folic acid does not prevent all cases of Spina Bifida. There is still a chance that you will have a child with spina bifida even if you take the right amount every day. However, taking the higher dose of folic acid on a regular basis will decrease your risk!

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