How many people are at risk for neural tube defects (NTDs)?

NTDs are a major cause of death and lifelong disability worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spina bifida is the most common NTD in the United States.1 Anencephaly is the second most common, but it occurs far less often than spina bifida. Other types of NTDs are less common, and some are rare, such as iniencephaly. For additional statistics about NTDs, visit

Parents who have already had a child with spina bifida or another NTD have a slightly higher risk (less than 5%) than other parents of having a second child with spina bifida. Families with two children with spina bifida have a 1 in 10 chance of having another child with this condition.2 To help prevent NTDs in later pregnancies, health care providers may recommend a higher amount of folic acid for these women, starting well before conception.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Birth defects COUNT. Retrieved May 3, 2018, from
  2. Chescheir N., & American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins-Obstetrics. (2003, reaffirmed 2016). ACOG Practice Bulletin: Neural tube defects, Number 44. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 83, 123–133.
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