Treatment

An active infection will require antibiotics; otherwise, treatment includes drugs to keep the body functioning until the inflammation fades away.

neural tube defects (NTD) A group of birth defects that occur in the first month of pregnancy, when the structure that develops into the brain and spinal cord is forming. Normally, this structure folds into a tube by the 29th day after conception, but if the tube does not close completely, the baby has a neural tube defect. Many babies with these defects are stillborn or die soon after birth.

The two most common forms of neural tube defects (NTDs) are spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida occurs when the spinal column does not close completely around the spinal cord. The seriousness of this condition can range from mild to severe and can be associated with loss of bladder and bowel function, paralysis, and sometimes death. Anencephaly, which occurs in three out of 10,000 births, involves the lack of development of parts of the brain or a complete loss of brain tissue.

Neural tube defects affect about 2,500 babies a year in the United States—one out of every 2,000 live births. Studies have shown that many of these defects may be prevented if the mother gets enough folic acid before and during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Specifically, women who get 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid (also known as folate, a B vitamin) each day before conception and during early pregnancy reduce the risk that their baby will be born with a serious neural tube defect by up to 70 percent.

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