Spina Bifida (cont.)
Mark R Foster, MD, PhD
William O Shaffer, MD
IN THIS ARTICLE
The only known way to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects is for the mother to have adequate folic acid levels before and during early pregnancy. This does not work in all cases, but studies have shown that as many as 70% of cases of severe spina bifida could be prevented by adequate folic acid intake.
Folic acid is essential for life.
It is very important that folic acid levels be adequate from the very beginning of pregnancy, before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. The critical need for folic acid is in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy. Waiting until she knows she is pregnant to start increasing folic acid intake is not good enough. All women who are able to become pregnant should take a folic acid supplement, even if they are not planning to become pregnant. (Half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned.) The folic acid may be taken alone or as part of a daily multivitamin.
Studies have suggested that cesarean delivery before labor begins can reduce the severity of paralysis in many babies with spina bifida. Couples who have a prenatal diagnosis of spina bifida for their baby may wish to consider a planned cesarean delivery.
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