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Anencephaly: What Is It And Do You Need To Worry?

When you're pregnant, the last thing on your mind is making a choice to continue the pregnancy, end it or planning a funeral or cremation, but it's sadly a reality that a lot of women end up facing. There are a handful of complications that are 100% deadly 100% of the time. Anencephaly (meaning absence of the skull) is one of them.

What is Anencephaly?

Anencephaly is a Neural Tube Defect related to Spina Bifida. The top of the tube fails to close during the 3rd to 4th week of pregnancy and part of the skull remains open. The result is the amniotic fluid eroding the brain down to nothing but the stem. It is said that 1 in 1000 pregnancies end with Anencephaly and the majority are miscarried. It is also considered to be one of the bigger causes of miscarriages. By the end of the pregnancy, if carried to term- 1 in 10,000 survive birth (normally via c section since the head is flat and they can't really push through). The few who do survive, only live a few hours to a day or two. It is 100% incompatible with life.

What causes Anencephaly?

There is no fully known cause, though people with a family history of neural tube defects have a higher likelihood of losing a baby to this condition- especially if a sibling was born with it. A family history of Spina Bifida also is linked. One form of the MTHFR mutation (C677T) is also a factor, along with a deficiency of folic acid while pregnant. It is thought to be due to both genes and environmental factors.

What are the biggest risk factors?

1. Having a baby in the past with either Spina Bifida

2. Having a parent, sibling or other close blood family member who either lost a baby or has a baby with either condition

3. Having a condition like the MTHFR mutation

4. Having a folic acid deficiency during the first trimester or three months prior to conception

How can it be prevented?

There is no known way to be 100% sure you won't lose a baby to this condition, but there has been evidence found that taking extra folic acid three months before conception and up to the first/second trimester can help.

Most people will not lose a baby to this condition, there is no real worry for the majority of people, but anyone with a family history of neural tube defects or if the mom has been diagnosed with any form of the MTHFR (especially a homozygous) mutation would benefit from taking extra folic acid while trying to conceive. You can't overdose on folic acid, you urinate any extra out. Outside of extra folic acid, there aren't many other ways to possibly prevent this condition, most of the cases of Anencephaly are caused by unknown reasons but it does increase your risk of another loss by a couple percent (still not too much to worry over- a lot of couples who lost went on to have healthy rainbows).

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