How can anencephaly be prevented?

Methods for preventing anencephaly include the following:

  • Proper nutrition: Eating nutritious foods and taking a vitamin supplement before and during pregnancy may help prevent neural tube birth defects. Getting enough folic acid is very important. Women of childbearing age should take a daily multivitamin supplement with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, since most women do not obtain enough folic acid from food alone. The synthetic form of the vitamin is more easily absorbed and utilized by the body than the form which occurs naturally in foods.

Other good sources of folic acid include leafy green vegetables, dried beans, oranges, and orange juice. Some products are fortified with folic acid, including enriched flour, rice, bread, pasta, and cereals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that folic acid be added to all enriched cereal grain products.

  • Folic acid supplements: Pregnant women who have previously given birth to an infant with a neural tube defect may have to take higher amounts of folic acid during pregnancy. Women should talk to their doctors about the recommended amount of folic acid. It is suggested that women who have had a previous pregnancy involving a neural tube defect should take 4 mg of folic acid, beginning one to two months before conception through their first trimester of pregnancy, under a doctor's supervision.

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