Posts Tagged ‘anencephaly’

Anencephaly: causes, risks & what you can do

Monday, January 25th, 2016

About 1,206 pregnancies are affected by anencephaly each year in the U.S.

Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain, skull and scalp. As a baby’s neural tube develops and closes, it helps form the baby’s brain and skull, spinal cord, and back bones. Anencephaly is a type of neural tube defect (NTD) that happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. A baby with anencephaly will be missing large parts of the brain that are necessary for thinking, hearing, vision, emotion and coordinating movement. Other parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin.

Babies born with anencephaly have reflexes such as breathing and response to touch and sound, however because of the severity of the condition, almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after birth.

What causes anencephaly?

In most cases, the cause is unknown. Some cases are caused by a change in the baby’s genes or chromosomes. Anencephaly may also be caused by a combination of genes and other environmental factors. Scientists are continuing to study anencephaly in order to discover the causes.

What are the risk factors?

  • Low intake of folic acid before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy increases the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a NTD including anencephaly.
  • Babies born to Hispanic mothers are at an increased risk for anencephaly; reasons for the increased risk are not well understood.

How is anencephaly diagnosed?

  • During pregnancy: a woman can have screening tests done during her prenatal visits. Anencephaly would result in an abnormal result on a blood or serum screening test. Anencephaly might be seen during an ultrasound.
  • After a baby is born: anencephaly is immediately seen at birth.

Is there anything you can do to lower your risk?

Yes.

  • Take a multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and early in pregnancy. Make sure to take your multivitamin even if you are not thinking about becoming pregnant any time soon. Since the U.S. started requiring that folic acid be added to certain foods, there has been a 28% reduction in cases of babies born with NTDs.
  • If you are pregnant, make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits and eat a well-balanced diet
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking and talk to your provider about any medications or drugs you are taking.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects

Monday, January 6th, 2014

January 5-11 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Are you getting enough folic acid each day?

Today’s guest post is from the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman consumes the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (known as anencephaly) and spine (known as spina bifida). Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which parts of a baby’s brain and skull do not form correctly. Babies born with anencephaly cannot survive. Spina bifida is a serious birth defect in which a baby’s spine does not develop correctly, and can result in some severe physical disabilities. All women, but especially those who want to become pregnant, need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Do I need folic acid?

Yes! Every woman needs to get enough folic acid each day, even if she does not plan to become pregnant. This is because our bodies make new cells every day—blood, skin, hair, nails and others. Folic acid is needed to make these new cells. Start a healthy habit today and get 400 mcg of folic acid every day.

Why can’t I wait until I’m pregnant to start taking folic acid?

Birth defects of the brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida) happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out she’s pregnant. Also, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. These are two reasons why it is important for all women who can get pregnant to be sure to get 400 mcg of folic acid every day, even if they aren’t planning a pregnancy any time soon. By the time a woman realizes she’s pregnant, it might be too late to prevent these birth defects. Starting today is the best option!

How do I get folic acid?

An easy way to be sure you’re getting enough folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin with folic acid in it. Most multivitamins have all the folic acid you need. If you get an upset stomach from taking a multivitamin, try taking it with meals or just before bed. If you have trouble taking pills, you can try a multivitamin that is gummy or chewable. Also be sure to take it with a full glass of water.

Folic acid has been added to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the food packaging. A serving of some cereals has 100% of the folic acid that you need each day.

In addition to getting 400 mcg of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods, you can eat a diet rich in folate. You can get food folate from beans, peas and lentils, oranges and orange juice, asparagus and broccoli, and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, and mustard greens.
For More Information
CDC’s Folic Acid Homepage
Birth Defects COUNT
Spina Bifida Overview

Fortification of corn masa

Friday, April 20th, 2012

corn-masaDid you know that Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a child with a neural tube defect (NTD), which includes spina bifida and anencephaly, than non-Hispanic white women?  Although the reasons for the disparity are not well understood, Hispanic women have been found to have lower intake of the B vitamin folic acid overall compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Serious birth defects of the brain and spine in America’s babies, particularly those of Hispanic origin, could be reduced if the nation’s corn masa flour products were fortified with folic acid, according to a new petition filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by a coalition of six organizations:
• Gruma Corporation
• Spina Bifida Association
• March of Dimes Foundation
• American Academy of Pediatrics
• Royal DSM N.V.
• National Council of La Raza

Fortification of enriched cereal grains such as bread and pasta with folic acid was mandated by the FDA in 1998. Corn masa flour, however, lacks federal regulatory approval for the addition of folic acid. The rate of NTDs in the U.S. has decreased by nearly one-third since fortification. Despite this success, about 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S. still are affected by NTDs annually and Hispanics have the highest rate when compared to other race or ethnic groups.

Corn masa flour is made from specially treated corn and is used to make products common in Latin American diets such as corn tortillas and tamales. The petitioners believe that by targeting traditional Hispanic food made with corn masa for folic acid fortification, it would be possible to lower the rate of NTDs among Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans. Studies have shown that folic acid works if taken before conception and during early pregnancy. Many countries in Latin America already allow fortification of corn masa products with folic acid, including Costa Rica, El Salvador and Mexico.

The FDA accepted the petition on April 17. The petition now will be reviewed by the agency, which is not required to follow a prescribed timetable on the approval process. “Adding folic acid to corn masa flour can successfully decrease neural tube defects in the Hispanic community,” said Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes.  “This is a safe and effective way to address the disparities we see in the Hispanic community and will give even more babies a healthy start in life. I’d like to thank our fellow petitioners for their leadership on this important health issue. We look forward to the FDA’s determination on our petition.”

We’ll keep you posted on their response.