The neural tube closes 28 to 32 days after a baby is conceived. This is before many women are aware that they are pregnant. Normal development of the brain and spinal cord may be affected during these first 3 to 8 weeks of pregnancy by:
- Not enough vitamins such as folic acid and other nutrients
- Using prescription medicine or alcohol
- Being around hazardous chemicals and other substances
- Genetic problems
Researchers have found that a woman who gets enough folic acid (vitamin B-9) can help lower the risk for neural tube defects. Folic acid is found in some leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits and fortified breakfast cereals. It is recommended that all women of childbearing age take a multivitamin that has folic acid. Folic acid is in prenatal vitamins. Getting this vitamin early in pregnancy is most important.
If you have had a child with a neural tube defect, your health care provider may recommend taking a larger amount of folic acid before your next pregnancy. Your provider may tell you to take this extra amount for 1 to 2 months before conception and then through the first trimester.
Your health care provider may also advise genetic counseling. You can discuss with a counselor the risk for a neural tube defect in a future pregnancy. Also talk with your provider about getting a prescription for folic acid to lower the risk for another open neural tube defect.
Some medicines, such as those for seizures, increase the risk of a woman having a child with spina bifida. Woman who take seizure medicine should take folic acid, even if pregnancy isn't planned. It is important to talk with your health care provider to see what dose of folic acid you should take and if your medicines should be adjusted.