What is a neural tube defect?

The term neural tube defect is understood to mean malformations of the central nervous system that result from a deficient closure of the neural tube. This is the first (tubular) attachment of the nervous system to the embryo, from which the brain and spinal cord develop. Towards the end of the first week of pregnancy, the neural tube closes. If this process does not go away completely, parts of the nervous system may remain undeveloped in the unborn child and serious disturbances in the development of the brain, spinal cord and spine can occur. In Germany, the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect is around 1 in 1000.

Spina bifida

Spina bifida or "open back" is one of the two main forms of neural tube defects. Here, a part of the spine is open. Depending on the size of the opening, location and extent of the injury, early surgery can minimize subsequent disability for the child.


In this form of neural tube defect, the skull and brain do not develop properly. Babies with anencephaly are either born dead or die shortly after birth.

Cause folic acid deficiency

To avoid malformations and miscarriages, a sufficient supply of folic acid, a vitamin of the B group, especially before pregnancy is recommended. Of course, also during pregnancy no folic acid deficiency should arise.

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