Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
The most common neural tube defects are:
In spina bifida, the tube that forms the spinal cord and spine does not close properly, causing damage to the developing spinal cord.
People with spina bifida have paralysis of the nerves below the affected area of the spine. This may cause difficulty walking or make them unable to walk without help. They may also have problems related to increased pressure in the brain and to lack of bladder and bowel control. In some babies born with spina bifida, the problems are severe enough to result in death.
Anencephaly is a more serious neural tube defect. In this condition, much of the brain does not develop. Babies with anencephaly are either stillborn or die shortly after birth.