What Is Anencephaly Diseases?
Anencephaly is a serious and fatal medical condition in which there is
defective formation of the brain and skull during fetal development. The
brain is minimally developed and almost entirely absent. There may be
rudimentary portions of the hindbrain* present, responsible for basic
functions such as breathing. The skull is only partially formed. A fetus with anencephaly may die in the womb or may survive birth and die
shortly thereafter. Fetuses with anencephaly are often spontaneously
aborted by the body of the mother, or they are stillborn (born dead).
Those who are born temporarily breathing are usually blind and deaf, as
well as unconscious due to a lack of the portion of the brain that makes
During fetal development, a structure known as the neural tube is
formed as a precursor to what later becomes the central nervous system in
the baby. The proper formation of a neural tube, including closure of the
tube, is critical to brain formation and function in later life. Anencephaly
is caused by a defect in the neural tube structure during formation.
Defects in neural tubes during pregnancy usually occur around 24 to
28 days after fertilization or approximately three to four weeks into the
pregnancy. Anencephaly is one of many different types of neural tube
defects, in which the neural tube fails to close properly.
Must Be Read: blood sugar effects in pregnant women
What Causes Anencephaly?
Many different environmental factors have been implicated as having a potential
role in the development of neural tube defects, including anencephaly.
Maternal type 1 diabetes*, maternal obesity*, folic acid deficiency or drugs
that impact folic acid levels in the body, specific toxins sometimes found
in cornmeal, some poisons such as arsenic, and excessively high maternal
body temperature may contribute to neural tube defects during pregnancy.
Hyperthermia*, a term used to describe excessively high body temperature,
may be caused by fever or recreational activities such as using a hot tub.
Folic Acid and Anencephaly Prevention
Folate is a form of folic acid, a type of B vitamin necessary for human
health. Folate is found in some food groups and can also be taken as
a vitamin supplement. It is a critical component of neural tube formation,
which takes place in the third to fourth week of pregnancy. Many
pregnant women are not aware of their pregnancy until after this time,
and so they may engage in activities that harm neural tube formation
without realizing it. In order to reduce the potential incidence of neural
tube defects, sexually active women of child-bearing age are encouraged
by healthcare providers to take folic acid supplements.
Among women who have a pregnancy affected by anencephaly or
some other type of neural tube defect, the recurrence risk is approximately
2 to 4 percent for subsequent pregnancies. If there are multiple
occurrences of neural tube defects in a family history, the risk is higher.
Women who have had a child with anencephaly are recommended to
take 4 mg of folic acid daily, whereas other women of child-bearing age
are recommended to take only 0.4 mg daily. Folic acid supplementation
is responsible for preventing two-thirds of all neural tube defects. It is a
critical component of the campaign against the occurrence of neural tube
defects such as anencephaly.
Read More: cervical cancer symptoms and treatment