NTDs occur when the spinal cord, brain, and related structures do not form properly. NTDs are called birth defects because they are present at birth. They usually occur very early in pregnancy—usually during the first month—and can cause serious problems after birth.
Since NICHD was founded, one of its main focuses has been understanding the causes, treatment, and prevention of birth defects like NTDs.
About Neural Tube Defects (NTDs)
A neural tube defect occurs early in fetal development when spinal cord, brain, or related structures do not form or grow properly.
What are the symptoms of neural tube defects (NTDs)?
NTD symptoms include physical problems (such as paralysis and urinary and bowel dysfunction), blindness, deafness, intellectual disabilities, and sometimes death.
What causes neural tube defects (NTDs)?
The exact causes of NTDs remain unknown, but many factors, such as genetics and the fetal environment, play a role.
How many people are at risk for neural tube defects (NTDs)?
Spina bifida and anencephaly are the most common NTDs in the United States. Parents who have already had a child with an NTD have a slightly elevated risk of having a second child with an NTD.
How do health care providers diagnose neural tube defects (NTDs)?
NTDs are usually diagnosed during pregnancy, through laboratory or imaging tests.
Are there disorders or conditions associated with neural tube defects (NTDs)?
Infants with NTDs may have other conditions, such as hydrocephalus or paralysis, which need treatment over time or later in life.
What are the treatments for neural tube defects (NTDs)?
Surgery, assistive technology, and orthotics are just some of the treatments for NTDs and their complications.
NICHD Research Information
NICHD conducts and supports research on NTDs and on ways to prevent and treat these disorders.
Find a Study
Find a Study on Neural Tube Defects (NTDs)
NICHD conducts and supports a variety of clinical research projects related to NTDs.
Other Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) FAQs
Find answers to other common questions about NTDs, such as how to prevent them.
Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) Resources
Links to websites of groups that study or provide information about NTDs.