Neural tube defects or NTDs are birth defects that develop very early at the time of pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that these defects develop between the 17th and 30th day post conception i.e. about four to six weeks post the first day of the woman’s previous period. This is to say that NTDs develop so early that the woman fails to take note; in fact, she wouldn’t even know for sure that she is even pregnant.
This period of pregnancy is very crucial for the successful development of the baby and the positive succession of pregnancy because it is during this period that the neural tube forms and closes that later develops into the brain, spinal cord and bone surrounding them. NTD occurs when there is a failure of closure of the neural tube.
The two most common types of NTDs are anencephaly and spina bifida.
One of the most commonly recommended ways to women trying to conceive for preventing neural tube defects is the consumption of folic acid. More researchers and studies are being done to come up with newer and more effective ways of preventing neural tube defects.
Folic acid is a coenzyme that plays an important role in cell production and metabolism. A developing, unborn child needs enough folate to grow tissues, enzymes and organs. During the development phase of the fetus, it needs more folic acid than ever. Therefore, it makes sense to increase the amount of folic acid even before a woman decides to conceive because doing so will stock up on the needed folic acid for fetus’ growth.
It is important for all the women in the childbearing age to know that folic acid and folate are two different names that are interchangeably used for the same B-vitamin, however, there is a slight distinction between the two. Folate is a B-vitamin that is easily available in natural food sources while folic acid is a synthetic B-vitamin that is not found naturally but can be sought in supplements and fortified foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that synthetic folic acid is absorbed better compared with natural food folate. The Centers also says that a woman must take folic acid every day for at least 30 days before conceiving. She must thereafter continue taking the supplement through the first three months of pregnancy.
An international team of researchers had recently found out in their study that a certain blood test can help in preventing neural tube defects. The test has been said to measure the level of folate i.e. a type of vitamin B in the red blood cells of the pregnant women. This test was found to help doctors in predicting the many risks of critical birth defects because folate is an important vitamin that contributes to the proper development of a fetus. Studies in the past have said that the risk of neural birth defects increases when the amount of folate in a pregnant woman’s red blood cells drops.
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