Practice Bulletin No. 187: Neural Tube Defects

Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Dec;130(6):e279-e290. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002412.


Neural tube defects (NTDs) are congenital structural abnormalities of the central nervous system and vertebral column. Neural tube defects may occur as an isolated malformation, in combination with other malformations, as part of a genetic syndrome, or as a result of teratogenic exposure (1). Neural tube defects are the second-most-common major congenital anomaly (2) after cardiac malformations, and their prevalence varies by geographic region, race, and environmental factors (3). Outcomes and disabilities depend on level and extent of lesion; for instance, anencephaly is incompatible with life but most infants with spina bifida will survive after surgical repair (4). Importantly, and in contrast to many other congenital abnormalities, primary prevention of NTDs is possible with folic acid. In addition, prenatal screening and diagnosis are widely available, and fetal surgery has improved outcomes for some newborns. The purpose of this document is to provide information about NTDs and make management recommendations for the pregnancy complicated by a fetal NTD.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / abnormalities
  • Central Nervous System / diagnostic imaging
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods*
  • Female
  • Fetal Therapies / methods*
  • Folic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Serum Screening Tests / methods*
  • Neural Tube Defects* / diagnosis
  • Neural Tube Defects* / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications* / therapy
  • Spine / abnormalities
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods*
  • United States
  • Vitamin B Complex / therapeutic use
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis


  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Folic Acid