The exact causes of neural tube defects are not known. Many different factors are likely to play a role, including genetics, nutrition, and environmental factors.
Research studies have found that getting enough folic (pronounced FOH-lik) acid (also known as folate or vitamin B9) before and during pregnancy can greatly reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
Well-established evidence shows that women who are obese, have poorly controlled diabetes, or take certain antiseizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and valproic acid (Depakote), or anti-folate (such as aminopterin) are at greater risk than are other women of having an infant with spina bifida or anencephaly1, 3 Some studies suggest that neural tube defects and miscarriage are more common among fetuses of women who experience high temperatures (such as using a hot tub or sauna or having a fever) during the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy.1, 2, 3 Women who may become pregnant or who are pregnant should avoid using hot tubs or saunas.
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