Birth defects of the brain or spine are called neural tube defects. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), neural tube defects often occur as a result of insufficient folic acid intake by the mother. Folic acid is is a form of the Vitamin B and it is found in foods like spinach, broccoli and various types of beans. Women who do not eat these types of food are often deficient in Vitamin B, even before becoming pregnant. Neural tube defects develop within the first month of gestation. Women often don’t know that they are pregnant yet, so they are not taking prenatal vitamins, which are good supplements for folic acid. To combat this potential problem, physicians sometimes prescribe prenatal vitamins to patients who are trying to become pregnant. According to the NIH, there is a higher risk of neural tube defects when:
–the mother is obese
–the mother has diabetes that are not adequately controlled
–the mother takes certain medications to prevent seizures
Types of Neural Tube Defects
Spina bifida is one type of neural tube defect. According to the NIH, it occurs when the spinal column of the fetus does not close completely. The most common of these defects, spina bifida occurs in approximately 1,750 U.S. births each year. There are four types of spina bifida:
–Occulta is the mildest form and rarely causes disability
–Closed neural tube defects have few or no symptoms, but can result in partial paralysis or bowel dysfunctions
–Meningocele occurs when spinal fluid protrudes through an opening in the vertebrae. It can lead to complete paralysis
–Myelomeningocele is the most severe form and often renders the affected child unable to walk
Anencephaly is another neural tube defect. According to the Center for Disease Control, babies with anencephaly are born with undeveloped parts of the brain and skull. This reportedly happens when the top of the neural tube does not completely close. Most babies born with anencephaly die very soon after birth. The CDC reports that the condition occurs once in about every 5,000 U.S. births.
The Role of the Doctor in a Neural Tube Defect Pregnancy
Neural tube defects can be detected early in the pregnancy with appropriate testing by the mother’s obstetrician. According to the NIH, though there is no cure for spina bifida, a growing number of physicians are performing fetal surgeries, with the goal of closing the abnormal spinal cord opening. The procedure is done while the baby is still inside of the mother’s abdomen and it involves substantial risk to the both the fetus and the mother. The fetus is in danger of premature delivery brought on by the surgery. For the mother, the procedure can cause infection and significant loss of blood.
According to reports, there is some evidence to suggest that certain prescription drugs may contribute to the development of neural tube defects, including spina bifida and the deadly anencephaly. It is a doctor’s responsibility to keep abreast of the most current studies and research on various birth defects. If a mother is prescribed medications during pregnancy and the fetus develops a neural tube defect, the prescribing physician may be liable in regards to the birth defect, as well as any related difficulties.
If you or your baby has suffered due to a neural tube defect, call an experienced attorney for a free consultation.