How can I prevent anencephaly?

Although it isn’t always possible to prevent anencephaly, you may be able to reduce your chance of having a child with the condition. To lower your risk, you should:

  • Get plenty of folic acid: Take 400 mcg of folic acid daily, even if you don’t plan to get pregnant right away. Neural tube defects (NTDs) occur in the first month of pregnancy, so it’s essential to start taking folic acid before you plan to become pregnant. If you’ve had a child with an NTD, talk to your provider about taking more than 400 mcg of folic acid.
  • Avoid certain medications: Drugs that control seizures and treat migraines and bipolar disorder can cause NTDs. Ask your provider about medications you’re taking before you become pregnant. Don’t take opioids if you think you may be pregnant.
  • Stay out of saunas and hot tubs: To keep your body temperature from getting too high, never go into a sauna or hot tub if you think you might be pregnant. If you have a fever while pregnant, ask your provider about taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to reduce your temperature.
  • Manage your health: Try to lose weight before you conceive, if you carry excess weight, and maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. If you have diabetes, talk to your provider about how to safely manage diabetes during pregnancy

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/18/2020.


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