Each year, anencephaly, one of the most common forms of neural tube defects occurs in 1 in 1000 pregnancies in the United States and an estimated 300,000 or more newborns worldwide. Anencephaly is a neural tube defect and occurs in the first three months of pregnancy. In the 3rd week of pregnancy, termed gastrulation, specialized cells on the dorsal side of the fetus begin to fuse and form the neural tube. When the neural tube does not close completely a neural tube defect occurs and causes anencephaly. When planning on and or becoming pregnant, doctors advise mothers to take prenatal vitamins and supplements to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, especially anencephaly. Although supplementation use is advised, maternal obesity is best understood as a contributor as to mothers giving birth to anencephalic babies. .
Obesity causes many problems for an expectant mother and can put the child at risk for serious health problems and deficiencies. Because anencephaly and other neural tube defects occur in the first three months of a pregnancy, poor glycemic control during the first trimester as compared with later pregnancy, is associated with the highest risk of anencephaly according to studies. Maternal obesity before pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of neural tube defects. According to the journal article, "Maternal Obesity, Gestational Diabetes, and Central Nervous System Birth Defects"," Anderson et al. (2005) "maternal obesity and diabetes are both associated with increased risk neural tube defects"." The studies have also indicated that obese women may tend to have some metabolic abnormality and or nutritional deficiency that disrupt development of the embryo in early pregnancy. According to the journal article, "Is Maternal Obesity a Risk Factor for Anencephaly and Spina Bifida? " the authors indicate that, "compared with average-weight women, obese women (pregravid body mass index greater than 29) had almost twice the risk of having an infant with anencephaly or spina bifida " (Watkins, Scanlon, Mulinare, and Khoury, 1996).