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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Anencephaly


Other Names for this Disease

  • Absence of a large part of the brain and the skull
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Your Question

If anencephaly occurred in a previous pregnancy, what are the chances of this condition affecting the next pregnancy if we take the recommended medication?  How long should the medication be taken before attempting another pregnancy?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

If anencephaly occurred in a previous pregnancy, what is the chance of this condition affecting the next pregnancy if we take the recommended medication?

Anencephaly is a type of neural tube defect (NTD).  If an NTD occurred in a previous pregnancy, there is up to a 4% chance of each future pregnancy also being affected with an NTD.[1]  However, taking the vitamin folic acid has been proven to reduce the chance of an NTD in future pregnancies.[1]  In one large research study, women who had a previous pregnancy affected by an NTD and who took folic acid prior to and during later pregnancies had an approximately 1% chance of having another pregnancy affected with an NTD.[2]
Last updated: 2/10/2012

If anencephaly occurred in a previous pregnancy, how long should folic acid be taken before attempting another pregnancy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that every woman take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for at least one month prior to becoming pregnant, and every day during the pregnancy as well, to reduce the chance of neural tube defects.[3]  In families with a history of anencephaly (a type of neural tube defect) in a previous pregnancy, it is recommended that the dose of folic acid be ten times higher, or 4 milligrams per day, beginning at least three months prior to becoming pregnant again and continuing every day during the pregnancy.[1]
Last updated: 2/10/2012

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Absence of a large part of the brain and the skull
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.