New Jersey

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Quick Facts: Central Nervous System Defects

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are the most common congenital anomalies affecting the central nervous system. NTDs are birth defects of the brain (anencephaly and encephalocele) and spine (spina bifida) that occur early in pregnancy. Holoprosencephaly, which also occurs early in pregnancy, is a central nervous system condition in which the brain fails to divide into the two lobes of the cerebral hemispheres, resulting in a single-lobed brain structure and severe skull and facial defects.

Birth defects of the central nervous system can cause life-long disability or death. Rates of infant death due to NTDs for the US and by state can be found under the "Mortality" topic.

Risks for NTDs vary by maternal race/ethnicity, with significantly higher rates among births to Hispanic women compared to births to non-Hispanic white women.

The US Public Health Service recommends all women of childbearing potential take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a NTD. For more information on vitamin use and knowledge among women, see the "Folic Acid" topic for the United States.


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