What is Anencephaly?
Anencephaly is a neural tube disorder that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says affects 1 in every 5000 babies in the United States annually. The neural tube is a ribbon of tissue that normally folds inwards and forms a tube by 28 days’ gestation. When this ribbon doesn’t close, the result is brain and spinal cord defects like anencephaly and spina bifida.
A baby born with anencephaly is missing the forebrain (the front part of the brain) and the cerebellum (responsible for controlling conscious thought and coordination).
Without the cerebellum, the baby will never gain consciousness. Some babies born with anencephaly still breathe and respond reflexively because they have a brain stem.
Anencephaly babies are usually born blind, deaf, unconscious, and presumed to be unable to feel pain. If the baby is not stillborn, then he or she usually dies within a few hours or days after birth.
What is the Cause of Anencephaly and Can it be Treated?
Researchers and doctors don’t know the precise cause of anencephaly. They know how it happens, but not why it happens.
There is no treatment or cure for anencephaly. It is a fatal birth defect.
How can Anencephaly be Prevented?
Since there is no cure and no treatment, then, how can anencephaly be prevented.
The March of Dimes quotes a recent study that suggested that women who take folic acid also known as folate or Vitamin B9 for at least one year before becoming pregnant can prevent up to 70 percent of neural tube defects.
Researchers still don’t know why folic acid makes such a huge impact. The reason for this timeline, however, is because the defect occurs before most women even know they're pregnant and start taking prenatal vitamins.
Vitamin B9 (folate) can be found in:
• Black beans
• Orange juice from concentrate
• Romaine lettuce
• Breakfast cereal
1) Facts about Anencephaly. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. Sept 26, 2012.