Anencephaly is the absence of a large part of the brain and the skull. It is also called Aprosencephaly with open cranium. It is one of the most common neural tube defects and occurs early in the development of an unborn baby, usually in the 23rd and 26th day of pregnancy. It happens when the upper part of the neural tube fails to close.


  1. environmental toxins (such as lead, chromium, mercury, and nickel)
  2. lack of folic acid intake of the mother.

It is also can be inherited as evidence show that a woman who has had one child with a neural tube defect such as anencephaly has about a 3% risk of having another child with a neural tube defect. Woman who are taking certain medications for epilepsy and women with insulin-dependent diabetes have also a higher risk of having a child with a neural tube defect.

It is characterized by absence of the skull, absence of the brain (cerebral hemispheres and cerebellum), facial feature abnormalities, heart defects, blindness, deafness, unconscious, and unable to feel pain.

Diagnostic evaluation:

  1. A pregnancy ultrasound may be done to confirm the diagnosis. It may reveal too much fluid in the uterus.
  2. Other tests includes Amniocentesis (to look for increased levels of alpha-fetoprotein), and Alpha-fetoprotein level (increased levels suggest a neural tube defect).
  3. pre-pregnancy serum folic acid test may also be done.


The prognosis for this condition is usually poor, in which death usually occurs after a few days. Therefore Proper Prenatal Check is very important and that pregnant mothers should get enough folic acid as according to some research, Folic acid can reduce the chance of neural tube defects by 50 percent.

Nursing Considerations:

  1. Encourage compliance to pre-natal check-ups.
  2. Include in the diet foods that are rich in folic acid (cereal, white bread, cooked okra, juice and etc).
  3. Have a regular ultrasound check-up.
  4. Listen to the concerns of the pregnant woman about what she is undergoing.

Photo credits:

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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