When it comes to neural tube defects you may have heard about them during your pregnancy because these are birth defects of babies. Actually these are congenital birth defects that occur between the 20th and 22nd day of pregnancy because the neural plate’s cells that make up the nervous system of the babies develop abnormally.
Information about the defects of the neural tube
Normally the cells of the neural plate fold back in order to create the neural tube that later will become the spinal cord and the backbone. After several transformations the top part will become the brain. The tube is something like a coin the edges of which fold towards its center.
In case of the defects of the neural tube, the tube itself isn’t able to close. Because of this the spinal cord and the brain are exposed, depending on
the location of the defect. The most common forms of this defect are considered to be spina bifida and anencephaly.
Why do the neural tube defects occur?
Sadly at this point not even the specialists know that causes the defects. Most probably they are caused by a combination of different genetic and environmental factors. Any woman who is able to give birth to a baby could have a child with a defect of this kind. The chances are of about 0.1%.
During pregnancy there is no way for the doctors to know which baby will be affected by the defects of the neural tube. The scary fact is that in about 95% of the cases the babies affected had no family history of such congenital defects.
Folic acid and neural tube defects
Folic acid is known to be a coenzyme that has a role to play in different metabolisms. The fetus has to grow tissue, cells and organs and in order to be able to do this, it needs folic acid. Even in 1976 the scientists saw that the mothers of the babies with defects had low levels of folates and low vitamin levels.
In 1980, during a study regarding the defects of the neural tube, it has been shown that an extra 400mcg intake of folic acid could considerably reduce the chances of women having children with birth defects. There have been some other studies conducted in this field as well.
According to another study regarding neural tube defects, out of the 2014 women who have been taking folic acid none gave birth to a baby with birth defects, while out of the other 2052 who haven’t been taking the substance, 6 gave birth to babies with birth defects.
A more recent study handling the defects of the neural tube has shown that the birth defect may have something to do with the methioninesynthase disorders. The main point of this enzyme is to transform homocysteine tomethionine. To be able to do this, there is need for a methyle group that is provided by folic acid.
In case women are taking folic acid along with vitamins, they could avoid the neural tube defects of the babies thus making right the anomaly connected to the enzymes. According to other studies, these substances could also help in case of other birth defects, like urethra malformations and heart malformations.
When to start with folic acid?
As you can see, folic acid can really help to avoid the defects of the neural tube and you should start taking it at least a month before you get pregnant. As it has been mentioned, the defect takes place very soon, and women don’t even know then that they are pregnant.
Now you know about neural tube defects.